In yesterday’s podcast with Captain Ed I mentioned how ironic it is to have pro-Castro propaganda films shown at the Princeton Public Library – which is headed by the head of the American Library Association – on the same week that Gustavo Colas Castillo, the Deputy Director of Independent Libraries of Cuba has been arrested.
Hentoff has spoken about the ALA earlier this year, in his article, American Library Association shamed
The American Library Association – the largest organization of librarians in the world – continually declares that it fights for everyone’s “Freedom to Read!” and its Library Bill of Rights requires its members to “challenge censorship.” Yet the leadership of the ALA — not the rank and file – insistently refuses to call for the immediate release of the independent librarians in Cuba – designated as “prisoners of conscience” by Amnesty International. They are serving very long prison terms because they do believe in the freedom to read – especially in a dictatorship.
Among the many organizations demanding that Fidel Castro and his successors release these courageous Cubans – who have opened their homes and libraries to offer books censored in the Cuban state libraries – are such groups as the library associations of the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia and Poland. All these librarians, finally freed from Communism, agree with their colleagues in the Polish Library Association, who say in their declaration, “The actions of the Cuban authorities relate to the worst traditions of repressing the freedom of thought and expression.”
Also calling for the liberation of Castro’s many prisoners of conscience, including the librarians, are the Organization of American States, Amnesty International and Freedom House.
However, the top officials of the American Library Association – as well as the majority of its Governing Council – speak derisively of these “so-called librarians” in Castro’s gulags.
It’s true that these prisoners, many brutalized and in failing health, in their cells, don’t have master’s degrees in Library Science; but as poet-novelist-educator Andrei Codrescu told last year’s ALA Midwinter Conference: “These people have been imprisoned for BEING librarians!” Why dismiss them “as ‘so-called librarians’ when clearly there is no one (in that dictatorship) to certify them.”
So bizarre is the ALA leadership, along with a cadre of Castro admirers on the Governing Council – in its abandonment of their fellow librarians – it refuses to post on its “Book Burning in the 21st Century” Web site the extensive, documented court transcripts of the “trials” that sent the librarians to prison. Those judges ordered the “incineration” of the prisoners’ libraries, including works by Martin Luther King Jr. and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”
But these sentencing documents are verified on the Web sites of Amnesty International, the organization of American States, and Florida State University’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights. Officials of the ALA – conjuring up a fake conspiracy by the Bush administration to overthrow Castro by using the independent librarians – disdain this verification of the book burnings. They insist, for example, that the Florida State University Web site is funded by grants from the U.S. government.
Yet, that Rule of Law and Cuba [link added] Web site project doesn’t get a dime from the U.S. government. Says director Mark Schlakman: “We place a premium on our independence.”
Read the rest.
But back to the Princeton Human Rights Film Festival hosted by the Princeton Public Library: The same people who praise Castro’s medics as “doctors” and play movies in their favor are the same people who refuse to support people who risk their lives by distributing books in Cuba.