A few weeks ago I wrote about the Vermillion Public Library and how it’s the first and only public library in the US to sponsor an independent library in Cuba. This is both a slap in the face to fidel castro and hopefully a wake up call to the other members of the American Library Association.
Last week, Nat Hentoff wrote once again about the Vermillion Public Library in the Village Voice. It seems that the Vermillion Public Library Board is not content with only sponsoring a Cuban independent library, but with inciting other public libraries in the country to do the same.
This reverberating act of simple decency was started by one person, Mark Wetmore, vice president of the Vermillion library’s board of trustees. Wetmore tells me that his impetus for bringing freedom to read to Cuba came from reading my columns here on Castro’s brutish repression. But it was Wetmore who actually did something that has brought increased international attention to those prisoners in the three-foot-wide and six-foot-long cells.
Jack Powell, a fellow trustee of the Vermillion library, told the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, South Dakota: “[Mark] kept us on task during all our discussions, kept coming back to the fact that the issue of freedom of access to information was the core concern. As a board, we’re happy to be collectively doing this, and we hope other libraries will follow our lead.”
Says Wetmore, who shows that one person can begin to strike back at a dictator: “It diminishes all our libraries a little if we know that there are people being persecuted for trying to operate free, uncensored ones and we don’t try to do something about it.”
Yet Mr. Wetmore did not stop there. He has prepared a guide for other members of the ALA to follow his lead.
Wetmore keeps on keeping on. He has now written a guide, Sponsoring an Independent Cuban Library, that lays out “the steps a library board in this country” can take to join this freedom caravan. In it he tells, with specificity, how the Vermillion Public Library learned how to do it?and much more, including how to ship books to Cuba, and what it costs. (Librarians in other countries have been adding to the shelves of the independent libraries since the Castro crackdown.)
Let’s all hope that more American public libraries follow Mr. Wetmore’s and the Vermillion Public Library’s example.
Gracias, Mr. Wetmore, for your solidarity with the Cuban independent libraries and for your work to tear down Cuba’s information barrier.