Friends of Cuban Libraries

NOTE: Here are excerpts from Nat Hentoff's most recent column (and note the theme of the next one, in which Nat will suggest ways for ALA members to challenge the pro-dictator faction, aided and abetted by the larger number of well-intentioned ALA Councilors who decline to study the facts):

Civil war among U.S. librarians

Nat Hentoff - Syndicated Columnist
July 12, 2007

...Among other suffering prisoners in Cuban cells who would have added further dimension to "Sicko" are independent librarians, put away for more than 20-year sentences for the crime of giving Cubans access to books and other publications forbidden in state libraries. Dr. Jose Luis Garcia Paneque, for example, director of a Las Tunas library, is not being treated meaningfully for intestinal problems, hypertension and other ailments.

The caged independent librarians were, however, at the center of a protest at an American Library Association conference in Washington in June. These protesters are themselves long-term members of the ALA and call themselves Freadomistas, in contrast with Fidelistas (Castro admirers) on the ALA's governing council....

Bearing such signs as "Book Burning Is NOT a Solution to Cuba's Energy Problems" and "Ray Bradbury (author of 'Fahrenheit 451') Says: 'Free The Jailed Librarians,'" the Freadomistas also handed out flyers that quoted the core ALA policy: "The American Library Association believes that freedom of expression is an inalienable human right ... vital to the resistance of oppression ... and the principles of freedom of expression should be applied by libraries and librarians throughout the world." Another ALA policy cited on the flyers "deplores the destruction of libraries, library collections and property."

Yet, as I have reported previously, the ALA ignores that Cuban court documents (validated by Amnesty International and the Organization of American States) reveal that the entire collections of at least six independent libraries were ordered destroyed....

Despite these facts, the delegates to the June ALA conference were told in the flyer that the American Library Association, on its Web site article "Book Burning in the 21st Century," repeatedly refuses to post the lists of books Castro burned after the Independent Libraries were started in 1998....

And the ALA council -- in defiance of a Jan. 25, 2006 poll in the official American Libraries e-mail newsletter, AL Direct, in which 76 percent of the rank-and-file membership urged emancipation -- continues its refusal to call for the release of what some ALA leaders deride as "so-called librarians...."

At the ALA conference, a Freadomista flyer ended with a reminder from Martin Luther King Jr., whose biography was burned by Castro judges: "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends."

The next time you visit your local library, you might express your support for the extraordinarily courageous independent librarians whose devotion to Cubans' right to read have put them in these gulags.

Next week: How those American librarians who believe in everyone's right to read can confront their leadership and bring hope to Cuba's caged librarians.

Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights and author of many books.