ALA's Stand on Cuba's Independent Libraries: The Association Opposes Both Censorship and Embargo

By McDonald, Peter | American Libraries, June-July 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

ALA's Stand on Cuba's Independent Libraries: The Association Opposes Both Censorship and Embargo

McDonald, Peter, American Libraries

For almost 10 years, Friends of Cuban Libraries has advocated tirelessly on behalf of what have become known as Cuba's "independent libraries." Led by a New York Public Library librarian named Robert Kent, the group has used blogs, e-mails, letters, and many public forums to castigate the American Library Association for failing to take a strong enough stand against censorship and in support of human rights in Cuba.

Persuaded to join in the crusade have been such luminaries as Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff (AL. May 2004, p. 49-52) and former cataloger Sandy Berman, a recipient of the ALA Equality Award, who have both petitioned the Association to speak out. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (AL, Aug. 2006, p. 50-51), author Andrei Codrescu (AL, Mar. 2006, p. 44), and journalism legend Anthony Lewis (AL, Mar., 2008, p. 63) have spoken during ALA conferences in support of these independent libraries and the Cuban dissidents--self-described librarians--who operate them.

International action

Since 1999, ALA, the Canadian Library Association, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA, of which ALA is a member), and other organizations have all passed resolutions or produced key documents opposing the U.S. posture of hostility and embargo of Cuba, while calling on Cuba to respect human rights and intellectual freedom. Although ALA Policy 58.4.1 on "Human Rights and Freedom of Expression" specifically supports these two inalienable rights, there nevertheless remains a vocal group that feels the ALA Council should go a step farther and specifically denounce the imprisonment of Cuban dissidents.

Several delegations of American librarians visited Cuba in the years following the 1994 IFLA conference in Havana (AL, Oct. 1994, p. 818-824). In spring 2001, a group led by then ALA President-elect John W. Berry went to Cuba to attend the plenary session of the Association of Ca ribbean University, Research, and Institutional Libraries (ACURIL) expressly to improve understanding about libraries and librarianship in. Cuba. They toured the national library and a number of public libraries that are part of an extensive system serving the highly literate population of Cuba. In addition, the group visited several independent libraries located in the homes of political dissidents, counterrevolutionaries, or members of the opposition movement. Immediately following Berry's trip to Cuba, Council at the 2001 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco passed a resolution that called on the U.S. government "to put policies in place ... to improve access to information in Cuba ... [and] oppose all efforts, including those of the U.S. government, to limit access to informational materials by Cuban libraries and library users." In the ensuing years, the Cuba debate moved off the Council floor to round table discussions, e-mails, blogs, conference programs, and the pages of American Libraries. Key ALA committees and Council itself have consistently supported the stance that the Association's policy toward Cuba was already sufficiently nuanced--calling on both Cuba and the U.S. to break down official barriers and respect human rights. Friends of Cuban Libraries, however, began vigorously demanding that ALA denounce Cuban censorship specifically and go on record supporting the independent library movement there.

The year 2003 was the flashpoint for ALA in what has now become a perennial issue for the Association. That spring, the Cuban government rounded up, tried, and imprisoned some 75 Cuban journalists, activists, writers, and other citizens accused of breaking laws specifically passed to counteract the palpably negative effects of the Helms-Burton Act (AL, June/July 2003,p. 50). Among these dissidents were several individuals who operated private collections of materials in their homes. Much of this material originated from Miami-based anti-Castro groups as well as subsidiary agencies of the U.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

ALA's Stand on Cuba's Independent Libraries: The Association Opposes Both Censorship and Embargo


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?