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ALA and Cuba: More Bad Press

Nat Hentoff brought ALA sharply to task on this issue, and I can’t say as I blame him, even though I don’t know who told him that the Washington Times is a credible publication.

Appearing to agree with that shrill pest, Robert Kent, makes me squeamish. Nevertheless, allow me to fully distance myself from the faction in ALA that appears almost Stalinist in its refusal to recognize the very real human rights violations in Cuba, particularly those related to the right to read. This faction hypocritically splits hairs over the definition of “librarian” in order to turn its back on the imprisonment of the people who regardless of their formal education are resisting, as Hentoff put it, the “censorship of ideas,” and have been arrested, tried, and found guilty of–get ready–providing small personal “libraries” of books that are hard or impossible to procure in Cuba. (And in library school, we told you providing access to information was a good thing to do.)

It is rarely a good idea for ALA to get involved in international relations, but when it does, the stand of ALA should always be on the side of free speech in open societies. It is even more shameful to hide behind what one librarian aptly called the “red herring” of the credentialing of the librarians.

I also condemn the widespread references to “dissidents” in ALA documents, used in these instances to dismiss the work of the Cuban activists, as if dissidence anywhere, but particularly in Cuba, was a bad thing. This double standard is as obvious and glaring as Rudolph’s red nose.

Unfortunately, few in ALA seem willing to risk the wrath of the Cuban hardliners. Nevertheless, based on the feedback I get, I am not alone in shaking my head at ALA over this issue.

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