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March 8, 2007
American Library Association
[Re: Shame on the American Library Association]
Shame on Hentoff.
Nat Hentoff is hypocritical once again. After lauding the statement by the
International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) concerning 75 dissidents jailed in Cuba in 2003, Mr. Hentoff continues to castigate the Council of the American Library Association (ALA) for adopting the same position as IFLA. The ALA Council consists of 183 members with diverse backgrounds and interests, including librarians from all 50 states, elected by the membership to set policy for the association.
Like IFLA, ALA has specifically urged "the Cuban Government to respect, defend and promote the basic human rights defined in Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights*ALA joins IFLA in its deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political dissidents in Cuba in spring 2003."
ALA’s position goes on "*this political climate brought on primarily by U.S. Government and Cuban Government legislation and policies in recent years should not be countered by censorship and imprisonment."
Regarding ‘independent’ libraries in Cuba, Mr. Hentoff and readers should be aware that in the 2004 the U.S. government earmarked 2 million dollars for ‘programs to restock, strengthen and expand the Cuban independent library network and to promote their solidarity with national library associations across Europe and Latin America"
(Chapter 1, p.25 of Report to the President: Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba http://www.state.gov/p/wha/rt/cuba/commission/2004/)
Also, a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report confirms that 8 organizations have received funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department to support Cuba’s ‘independent’ libraries, more than any other group in Cuba (p. 23 http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07147.pdf )
Hentoff seems to also take issue that ALA President Leslie Burger did not get back to him directly. She appropriately referred Hentoff’s inquiry to the ALA International Relations Office. She was preparing to testify before the Senate to try to stop the closure and destruction of the network of libraries at Environmental Protection Agency offices around the country. The EPA libraries inform and protect Americans by providing valuable information. The reason for these closures-a 2 million dollar decrease in the budget.
Maurice J. Freedman
ALA past president and chair,
ALA International Relations Committee