In the latest issue of the Villager, a publication serving lower Manhattan, writer and broadcaster Andrei Codrescu rebukes the American Library Association over their failure to condemn or otherwise intervene in the arresting of Cuban librarians and the confiscation of their materials.
In existence since 1988, the libraries in question are privately owned and, according to Codrescu, “dedicated to offering Cubans books not officially available…. [E]stablished by volunteers in Cuba to bring light to the oppression of Castro’s police state,” by the end of 2002, 103 libraries served 182,000 registered patrons. However, in November 1999, one of the private library movement’s founders, Ramon Colas, was arrested in what would become a highly publicized human rights case.
According to Codrescu (who himself grew up in a Stalinist Romania), the A.L.A., which has traditionally stood alongside such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Helsinki Human Rights organization, and Amnesty International in its defense of “the freedom to read … throughout the world,” has failed to recognize the collections as “libraries” and those running them as “librarians,” despite accounts “from Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, as well as press reports from the Washington Post and Associated Press,” and the condemning testimonials from “Vaclav Havel, the hero of the Czech Velvet Revolution, Lech Walesa, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace and former president of Poland, and Arpad Goncz, former president of Hungary.”
Click here for Codrescu’s piece in the Villager