A Farewell to the WDVUB Library

Ghassan Bardawil


On Thursday evening we got together to say goodbye to the We Decolonize VUB library that hosted us for three years. For one last time, flooded with the aromas of spiced rice and fresh baked goods, the library filled with chatter and warmth. We traded recipes and book suggestions, shared and talked about our experiences of systemic inequality, and complained about the cold and upcoming exam period. It felt like a home.

The WDVUB library has been the organization’s home for over three years, not only hosting countless events and get-togethers, but also being a safe and engaging setting for the day-to-day activities of our members and for the student body as a whole. Since its launch in October of 2020, the library has been central to WDVUB’s mission, it was the project’s first real endeavor. 

Initially, the space was primarily focused on being a resource library which was curated to challenge the normalized eurocentrism which plagues academic institutions like VUB. We Decolonize VUB aimed to provide access to books which were about decolonization and antiracism, but also fiction books by racialized authors. The space that the library created brought together so many creative and dedicated students who each came with their own ideas and projects, organically and with time the library grew to become much more.

“Eventually someone got the idea to also organize study spaces, and then also we provided designated spaces for religious students to come and pray, so it became very multifunctional.” Aïsha, a key board member, told me when we spoke. She has been involved with the library since the beginning and described to me how naturally the space came to take on its current form, “the library was very much a place where people could come to just unload, to study, to pray, to read… it wasnt restricted to being simply a library where you strictly come to consume and reproduce knowledge. No, it became a lot more than that.”

In 2021 the library made the move from the yellow buildings of the former P dorms to the current location in the F building. That year also saw the establishment of the WDVUB student board, overhauling the way the organization functioned. Although the library had hosted events since its launch, it was previously seen as the venue for these events, after this overhaul the library itself became the dedicated setting for a variety of activities. 

“In the second year we definitely started to utilize it even more … that is when we had the We Decolonize members so what happened is that a lot of cool, fun, low effort events would be organized like we had the Iftar dinner and we also had some talks where people would come and we would have snacks”. The library naturally came to serve the previously unmet needs of racialized students for safe and comfortable spaces to be vocal in and to collectivize. This shift began to create a community and ultimately that community needed to be housed, this transformed the library from a static destination to a home. 

With the growth of the organization’s popularity on campus, the roles that the library took on would only expand. “People would come to ask us questions about colonialism and discuss their thoughts, or sometimes to discuss incidents of racism or structural aggression in the university” Aïsha told me, “the library became what I would call a zone of comfort for racialized students.” Student’s growing reliance and trust in WDVUB and our mission hinged on the critical role of the library as the organization’s home, and the flexibility and adaptability that it brings has been instrumental for the realization of the organization’s image. The library has since hosted countless planned events ranging from talks and seminars to book clubs and open mics, while our members continue to run into ever more creative ways to make the space bloom.   

This semester was particularly challenging to traverse for the organization and its members. Although we began the academic year with a variety of brilliant ideas for events and projects, many of these plans took to the wayside as the ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing and mass-extermination erupted in Gaza. The Al-Aqsa Flood attacks on October 7th and subsequent Israeli air bombardment and ground campaign on the Gaza Strip definitively reshaped the organization’s goals and plans. It was immediately clear to all of us in the board that the organization is obliged to step up to the plate. The library was crucial for our efforts, the flexibility and independence that the library presented allowed impromptu changes to our events and plans and the location created a go-to space where we can refer students to go get informed and involved. Events like the “poems from Gaza” book club night which brought pressing issues and discussions to the forefront would not have been possible without the organization’s well equipped and accessible library. These months have reinforced, more than ever, the need for spaces like the WDVUB library for students to collectivize in solidarity and to organize and structurally resist against the colonial remnants in our schools, societies, and governments.

Despite the hope and ambition revolving around the future of the library, and of WDVUB more broadly, it remains difficult to say goodbye to the library in building F. The space has played a huge role not only in the broader formation of the organization, but also in each of our individual developments. “For me, it was a spot where I could just come and be in my own little world. I’m really gonna miss it!” Aïsha said.

You will be able to find the library at its new temporary location at Pleinlaan 5, just across the street from the VUB campus. Despite the temporary relocation, the library is a permanent pillar of the core identity of We Decolonize VUB, and we hope to see it continue growing in value and sentiment to our members and the wider student-body. We hope to see you at the new location very soon! Don’t forget to stay updated on the library move, as well as all of our events and actions, through our social media.