Zoom on the Dutch-language literary holdings of Lille 3

When in the summer of 2012 the decision was taken to close the Institut Néerlandais located in rue de Lille, Paris, after 57 years, lovers of the Dutch language were concerned. Soon the question arose whether its rich literary collection would be preserved, and there were numerous candidates to carry the torch.

In the end, Lille 3 university was selected. Isabelle Westeel, Head of the Common Documentation Service of Lille 3 and one of the initiators of the project to acquire the holdings, explains: “Numerous universities wanted to acquire them, but not in their entirety. The fact that the university would maintain the collections in their entirety, open them up to the general public and expand them, finally prompted the Institute to opt for Lille 3. The geographical location of the faculty (near Paris and the Dutch-speaking regions and in the centre of Eurometropolis Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai) and the mobilisation of numerous local actors, including the Eurometropolis, have also tipped the scales.

From rue de Lille to the city of Lille (or almost)
So the collections moved to the campus of Lille 3 and its university library, situated in the Pont de Bois district of Villeneuve d'Ascq. Approximately 9000 works are stored and can be consulted there. The contents of the holdings are very eclectic and cater for different target groups: “They contain works of literature from the 19th and 20th centuries as well as young adult literature and translations from other languages. They are also particularly rich in books on colonial and postcolonial topics,” adds Isabelle Westeel.

Teachers are delighted with this considerable addition to the extensive collection of Lille 3: “The response has been very enthusiastic, both from history teachers and from language teachers.”

A boost for the cross-border region
This is a real windfall for our cross-border region. These extensive holdings “offer an opportunity to develop cultural projects involving the actors of the Eurometropolitan region,” according to the Head of the Common Documentation Service. For instance, several works exist in two copies, one of which  has been donated to the local education authority so as to distribute them among schools. There are also plans to map the different holdings of Dutch-language literature: the idea is to organise promotional actions via the libraries in the Lille Metropolis area and in the Eurometropolitan region.

Isabelle Westeel adds that, in the long run “the idea is to put in place periodic initiatives to make part of the collection available for workshops, exhibitions and literary readings, followed by an exchange.” Once all works will have been catalogued, we will organise sessions with classes where the holdings will be consulted, for instance. All these initiatives confirm that lovers of the Dutch language have good days ahead of them in the Eurometropolitan region!