Monday, March 06, 2006

Response to Steve Marquardt on Cuba Issue

William (Bill) Crowe and I recently received an email from Steve Marquardt, Dean of Libraries and Copyright Officer, South Dakota State University, asking us to reply to two questions. You’ll find Bill’s reply on his blog.

Body of Email Message:

Dear Loriene Roy and William Crowe,

On behalf of several dozen librarians concerned about Cuba's independent
libraries, I am asking for your response to two questions.

In addition to Cuban violations of the freedom to read, we are concerned
about the ongoing criticism of our professional association by the press
and even by our own invited keynote speakers (Carolina Garc=EDa-Aguilera, Ray Bradbury and Andrei Codrescu), regarding ALA's failure to join major human rights organizations* with a call for the release of Cubans imprisoned for operating independent libraries.

Our reluctance to fully support human rights also undermines the credibility of our efforts to protect privacy rights in the Patriot Act.

A stronger ALA position on human rights has the support of significant
sentiment in the Association membership, based upon the response to four presentations on this issue that I made to state and regional library
associations last autumn, as well as the 75% of the 591 respondents to
the recent AL Direct poll who expressed support for a condemnation of
the Cuban government for locking up library workers. My own informal
e-mail poll of candidates for the 2006 Council election indicates that
more than 80% of respondents who have expressed an opinion to date on
this issue support an ALA call for the prisoners' release.

Former ALA President John Berry has written, "I love these people. I
wish Castro would let them go." ( Current President Michael
Gorman, in comments televised by C-SPANs Book TV after the Andrei
Codrescu keynote speech, said, "These people should not be in prison and
should be freed immediately. They should never have been sent to
prison." We are wondering if you share these sentiments.

Therefore QUESTION ONE is: Would you support a strengthened ALA
resolution calling upon the Cuban government to immediately release the
persons sentenced to 20 year prison terms for opening independent

The second question concerns the incineration or destruction ordered by
the Cuban courts that tried the defendants and imposed the sentences.
Several of us who consider book burning a crime against the intellect
and worthy of mention on ALA's "Book Burning in the 21st Century" web
have requested the Office of Intellectual Freedom to cite
the book burning in Cuba. For proof of these explicit orders in the
Cuban court documents, see the following pages hosted by Florida State
or review the attached digest that I have compiled.

Therefore QUESTION TWO is - As ALA President, would you request that
ALA's "Book Burning in the 21st Century" web page include a report of
the Cuban government's destruction, by incineration and other means, of
hundreds of books, magazines and pamphlets seized from Cuba's
independent libraries?

I thank you in advance for your responses, whatever they may be. And
good luck in the election!

* Major human rights organizations calling for the release of the
imprisoned organizers of independent libraries and reading rooms include
Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First,
( Freedom House, the International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, and Amnesty International (also and Even the French Communist Party (, within a month of the
arrests, issued its demand the prisoners be released. However, the ALA
Council on 14 January 2004 voted down an amendment that "calls for their
immediate release" and limited its policy response to the independent
library prisoner issue to the following paragraph: "ALA joins IFLA in
its deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political
dissidents in Cuba in spring 2003 and urges 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." (The
complete report approved by ALA Council is at

Steve Marquardt, Ph.D.
Dean of Libraries and Copyright Officer
South Dakota State University
Box 2115, North Campus Drive
Brookings, South Dakota 57007-1098
FAX: 605-688-6133
Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of South Dakota State
University or any of its employees but me.

Loriene Roy's response:

Certainly, this is an issue that has long been discussed by ALA members and those actively involved in ALA’s committees and other units. Like many others, I have followed these discussions as they have stirred up much emotion. It is clear that some ALA members want ALA to take a stronger stand while other members feel uncomfortable with pressure arising outside of ALA to support what is clearly a very political issue. I understand how important it is for people to be heard and I believe that there are processes in place to allow them to do this.

First, I encourage those interested in this issue to review materials available on the ALA Website, all of which are easily found by typing in “Cuba” in the search box at You will find links to a number of reports that document the organization’s careful consideration of issues related to intellectual freedom and open access to information in Cuba. Included are reports of the Latin America and Caribbean Subcommittee of the International Relations Committee’s report of 15 January 2001, the report of ALA members visit to Cuba in May 2001, links to IFLA’s 2001 resolution on the U.S. and Cuba, and ALA resolutions from July 2001 and January 2004.

Second, should ALA members feel that there is new information on this topic, the policy-setting process of the Association allows for the introduction of resolutions calling for a vote by ALA Council. There are several approaches to introducing resolutions; for example, Councilors can bring forth such resolutions as can ALA members through membership meetings. ALA’s Handbook of Organization outlines the process to follow and there is ample support available, including the services of the Resolutions Committee, to secure help in drafting resolutions.

ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom provides rich resources including not only the text of ALA’s IF policies but also advice for librarians dealing with challenges to materials, information on privacy, and coverage of timely issues. The “Book Burning in the 21st Century” page offers a sampling of cases currently dating from 8 March 2001 to 10 October 2005. It is likely that the OIF and, possibly, the Committee on Intellectual Freedom, have guidelines governing the inclusion of content on the Website that each ALA member, including the ALA President, would want to review before entertaining suggesting the addition of any content.