In opposition to ALA's complicit support for book burning

Subj: Anthony Lewis Defends Cuban Librarians at ALA Conference
Date: 1/16/2008 10:45:08 PM Eastern Standard Time

The Friends of Cuban Libraries
( )
Jan. 15, 2008

Anthony Lewis Defends Cuban Librarians at ALA Conference

Dear Bloggers:

On January 14, soon after the American Library Association's mid-winter conference was inaugurated in Philadelphia, the acclaimed civil liberties author Anthony Lewis gave a presentation of his new book, "Freedom for the Thought that We Hate." This event, widely publicized by the ALA, was held at the National Constitution Center. Anthony Lewis's program was sponsored by the ALA's Freedom to Read Foundation.

During his prepared remarks Anthony Lewis spoke up in defense of Cuba's independent librarians,

who are being subjected to an ongoing campaign of threats, mob attacks, police raids, 20-year prison terms and the court-ordered burning of entire library collections. In its three reports on Cuba, the ALA has refused to condemn, or even acknowledge the existence of, library repression and book burning by the Castro government

In today's online "AL Direct" magazine (owned by the ALA), which covers the Philadelphia conference, there is NO MENTION of Lewis's public challenge to the ALA's Cuba policy, even though two "American Libraries" journalists were among Lewis's audience.

Will bloggers allow this story to be "spiked" by the mainstream library press, which is apparently trying to prevent any news of Lewis's statement from being publicized? We respectfully urge you to publicize Lewis's challenge to the ALA in your blog postings. Your readers have a RIGHT to know what is happening, no matter how hard the ALA tries to ignore or kill this important news story.

In contrast to the ALA, Amnesty International has declared imprisoned Cuban librarians to be prisoners of conscience who should be immediately and unconditionally released. And the ALA even refuses to publish on its anti-book burning website the Cuban court papers documenting the burning of entire library collections on the island.

In his statement condemning library repression in Cuba, Lewis said: "I can't think of anything worse than putting people in jail" for opening libraries.

Lewis's comments followed the publication of a press release (reprinted below) by the Friends of Cuban Libraries ("ALA Dishonors Ben Franklin, Critics Say") stating that the ALA's Cuba policy "dishonor[s] the legacy of Benjamin Franklin, the Philadelphia icon of liberty who also founded the first public libraries in colonial America."

Lewis' outspoken comments are in the tradition of past ALA speakers such as Ray Bradbury (author of "Fahrenheit 451"), Andrei Codrescu and Madeleine Albright, all of whom have spoken out against the repression of librarians in Cuba. All of these appeals by ALA speakers have been ignored or dismissed as "lies" by some ALA officials such as former president Michael Gorman.

So, bloggers, please take action to let your readers know the truth.

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I feel it does no good to make unsubstantiated charges of "spiking" what could actually be a non-story.

Ray Bradbury has condemned ALA inaction; Nat Hentoff, in a few of his columns -- and! -- he returned his Imroth award to the ALA; Madeliene Albright, a prominent public figure, and Andrei Codrescu have also spoken out on the need to actively oppose the repression.

I don't think that ongoing criticism of ALA inaction regarding the arrest of people for passing out books and the sentencing of the collections to destruction could possibly be considered a non-story. It is certainly not an incident that should go unremarked. And those who were there to report on the Lewis presentation should have recorded it themselves for reference. They should not have to wait until a podcast becomes available to report on the incident.

Save the easily offended: ban everything.