The American Library Association and Cuba

Just received the following from robert kent, co-chair of the Friends of Cuban Libraries:

Dear Library Bloggers:

Printed below is a letter just sent to ALA president Leslie Burger urging the ALA, yet again, to clean house with regard to the association’s policy on the ongoing scandal in Cuba. One of these days the ALA will get it right about which side of the book burning issue it should be on, but until then bloggers have a glorious duty, in the words of H.L. Mencken, to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

Blog readers can send comments to Leslie Burger at: (

Warm regards,

Robert Kent
Friends of Cuban Libraries

Open Letter: The ALA’s Book Burning Scandal

To: Leslie Burger, ALA president
From: The Friends of Cuban Libraries
Subject: The ALA’s Book Burning Scandal

Dear Ms. Burger: January 17, 2007

The midwinter meeting of the American Library Association in Seattle (Jan. 19-24) is the first conference at which you will serve as ALA president. The conference will also provide an opportunity to take decisive action to restore the ALA’s principled role as an unbiased defender of intellectual freedom in the U.S. and around the world.

Since 1998 the ALA has been mired in a profound ethical crisis due to the efforts of a small, militant pro-Castro faction to ignore, deny, cover up, and lie about the systematic persecution of Cuba’s independent library movement, an innovative challenge to government censorship which has opened hundreds of libraries offering public access to books reflecting all points of view. The Castro regime has responded to the independent library movement, founded by Ramón Colás and Berta Mexidor, with an unceasing campaign of persecution. The ALA has now conducted three (3) official investigations of the cruelties being inflicted upon Cuba’s volunteer librarians. All three (3) of the ALA investigations have been dominated by a small faction which has tried to ignore, cover up and lie about the repression of Cuban library workers, including the Castro regime’s use of threats, mob attacks, secret police raids, 20-year prison terms and the court-ordered BURNING of thousands of library books.

During a meeting with a representative of the Friends of Cuban Libraries in June 2006, you were presented with information on Cuban sentencing documents proving the court-ordered burning of thousands of books seized from the independent librarians. As noted during the meeting, the existence of these damning documents, along with reports by Amnesty International and other reputable human rights groups which were based on these key documents, has been studiously ignored by the persons conducting the ALA’s three (3) investigations of Cuba.

In their zeal to deny, ignore, cover up and lie about the repression in Cuba, the ALA’s pro-Casto faction insists ”’there is no censorship in Cuba,” just as it contemptuously ignores appeals for justice on behalf of Cuba’s independent librarians made by living icons of freedom such as Ray Bradbury, Nat Hentoff, Andrei Codrescu, Vaclav Havel and Madeleine Albright.

As pyres of burning library books have blazed more intensely in Cuba, as library workers are assaulted by government-directed mobs, and as reputable human rights groups such as Amnesty International vigorously condemn the persecution and demand the release of the jailed volunteer librarians, all three (3) of the ALA’s fraudulent investigations have failed to condemn, or even acknowledge the existence of, these outrages. Instead, the ALA’s three (3) investigations have limited themselves to brief and vague expressions of general concern, without even deigning to note the names of any of the Cuban library workers enduring life prison terms for the alleged crime of opposing censorship. Sadly, the well-intentioned but unfocused majority on the ALA governing Council has accepted, virtually without question, the fraudulent reports stage-managed by the ALA’s pro-Castro faction, despite an ALA membership poll in which 76% of the respondents called on the ALA to condemn the repression in Cuba.

Ms. Burger, you did not create the book burning scandal in which the ALA has become embroiled, but as ALA president you now have not only an opportunity but a duty to put an end to this scandal. You did not create the current ALA policy toward Cuba, founded on lies and deception, but you are under no obligation to defend the ongoing cover up or to repeat the pro-Castro faction’s lies as if they are the truth. On the contrary, you have not only a right but a duty to tell the truth and to defend victims of injustice. In the 1930’s ALA members forthrightly condemned the Nazi regime for hurling thousands of library books into the flames, and we can do no less today when the Castro regime commits the same outrage.

Accordingly, we in the Friends of Cuban Libraries respectfully ask you to use your authority as ALA president to restore the ALA’s reputation as an honest, impartial and principled defender of intellectual freedom in the U.S. and the world. We specifically ask you to:

* Declare the paramount duty of the ALA to impartially defend intellectual freedom everywhere, with an emphasis on those nations where governments are committing the ultimate outrage of burning books and persecuting library workers,

* Remind the well-meaning but distracted majority on the governing ALA Council of their responsibility to safeguard the honesty of investigations conducted under ALA auspices,

* Order the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom to quit stalling and post on its anti-book burning website the Cuban court documents which ordered the burning of confiscated library books,

* Use the president’s authority to re-focus the ALA’s annual conference by mandating speakers, panel discussions and other events centered on book burning in the contemporary world,

* Organize an unbiased ALA committee which will restore the ALA’s integrity by telling the truth about book burning, censorship, the repression of library workers, and the criminalization of computer ownership and Internet access in Cuba.

Sincerely and respectfully yours,

Robert Kent
Co-chair, The Friends of Cuban Libraries

2 thoughts on “The American Library Association and Cuba”

  1. Selective vivion, also known as hypocrisy, is pretty much par for the course in the case of Cuba with respect to the supposedly freedom-loving or democratic world. I hope Burger has the integrity and decency to do the right thing, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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