Arthur Miller, "A Visit with Castro." The Nation: January 12, 2004
Miller reports on a visit to Cuba, in which Castro is "a handsome old clock that no longer tells the time correctly and bongs haphazardly in the middle of the night, disturbing the house."
Joan Smith & Adolfo Fernandez Sainz, “Writers in prison: The other side of paradise.” New Statesman: January 12, 2004
An article in two movements. The first part is by Joan Smith, chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of English PEN, and the second is an essay by Cuban writer Sainz, serving a 15-year sentence for his views, who criticizes the regime.
Sandy Berman, who was honored in absentia at ALA's January, 2004 midwinter meeting in San Diego, wrote this after the conference:
"If any SRRTer [member of the Social Responsibilities Roundtable] truly believes that opposing the Draconian 2003 crackdown on Cuban dissidents and demanding both their release from prison and return of all confiscated materials fully qualifies someone as a 'fanatic foot solder on behalf of the White House and State dept,' then that’s what I am.
"But so are the editors of American Libraries, MultiCultural Review, Counterpoise, and the Progressive; Eduardo Galeano, Ariel Dorfman, AI, HRW, Reporters with Borders, Vaclav Haval, Bogota major Luis Eduardo Gazon, Stanley Aronowitz, Noam Chomsky, Barbara Eichenreich, Barbara Garson, Susan Griffin, Naomi Klein, Michael Lerner, Grace Paley, Katena Pollit, the late Edward Said, Cora Weiss, Peter Weiss, Cornell West, Howard Zinn, Eric A. Herman, Peter Gay, Mark Crispin Miller, Samantha Power, Ellen Willis, Elizabeth-Young-Bruehl, National Book winner Carlos Eire, Michel Allsert and James Weinstein.
"I’m proud to be 'among that number.' And suspect that most SRRTers don’t regard these veteran activists and humanitarians as merely deluded fools and foils."
You-me too, Sandy.
"It is hard for me to believe that the majority of rank-and-file librarians agree with the spinelessness of their governing council, which couldn't bring itself to ask the luminous Fidel Castro to let these people go. ... I now publicly renounce the Immroth Award and demand that the American Library Association remove me from the list of recipients of that honor. To me, it is no longer an honor. "
I congratulate Nat on what is not an easy thing to do--return an award. He did this to make a point, of course. And I agree with him: I don't believe the ALA membership is with Council on this issue, and I think more points need to be made--this time, within the profession.
Nat Hentoff nailed the ultimate hypocrisy of ALA on the Cuban issue: "But that very day, the governing council of the American Library Association shamed rank-and-file librarians across this country, many of whom have been vigorously and publicly resisting the section of John Ashcroft's Patriot Act that gives the FBI the power to search library records for the names of borrowers who have taken out books the FBI thinks may be linked to terrorism."
In fact, ALA Council archives show that in 2002, Al Kagan, the leader of the team who wrote the Cuba report, had bitterly castigated ALA for not going far enough in its condemnation of the Patriot Act. (Kagan had wanted ALA to condemn the entire Act, even though only portions of it relate to civil rights.)
As a librarian, writer, and civil libertarian, I have been very proud of ALA on the Patriot Act (including Carla Hayden's brave and timely comments last year, responding to Ashcroft's rude rebuff of our request for records). That's why I'm so puzzled by ALA Council's response to such a seemingly small addition to a lengthy report.
Again, I think the biggest problem is that we have lacked input and insight--and leadership--from moderates and progressives who believe in democracy and free speech everywhere. But that doesn't really go far enough in explaining the listless response from librarians who can get whipped up about the removal of a single book in a library in this country, yet turn away when we are discussing wholesale and systematic denial of civil liberties somewhere else.
I know Americans tend to have vast gullies of ignorance when it comes to other countries, but you don't need a degree in Latin American studies to conclude that civil liberties are not the strong suit of a country with a dictator in power for over four decades, a state-controlled press, a habit of jailing writers and journalists, and a particular animus for independent librarians and book collections. Is it such a thin and shaky limb we were expected to go out on to make the statement asking for the release of the political prisoners jailed in the spring, 2003 crackdown (whose total numbers, as of today, go up to 83, according to Amnesty International)?
And I haven't even written about ALA's past actions, including holding a "forum" that only recognized Cuba's "official" librarians.
The irony is that ALA, an organization that prides itself on leading the vanguard with respect to civil liberties in law and policy, has now distanced itself from the voices of reason on this issue: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International PEN, Campaign for Peace and Democracy, and some of the best and--tellingly--most consistent civil-liberties activists within our own organization, including Sandy Berman. In attempting not to go out on a limb (and risk what--the condemnation of a handful of pro-Castro librarians?), ALA now finds itself exactly where it didn't want to be--twisting alone, in the breeze.
The question is--what next? I won't turn to ALA for the answer; but Nat is setting an example I admire.
Carrying Fidel's water, http://washingtontimes.com/op-ed/nhentoff.htm
This is pretty much how it went down at ALA Midwinter, although I hope we can later see the transcripts and look more closely at the discussion.
In all fairness to my association, our internal discussion about Cuba has long been co-opted by the more extreme voices on the right, leaving this traditionally left-leaning organization in an awkward bind. My amendment came very late in the day for my peers to absorb and think about.
Still, let's go back to the facts. 75 people remain in jail, some for up to 28 years, for the crimes of practicing the right to read, speak, and own and share books.
(And no, you don't have to call me "Mrs. Schneider.")
And it happened right here in the Golden State: "In Los Angeles, the judge, Audrey B. Collins of Federal District Court, said in a decision made public on Monday that a provision in the law banning certain types of support for terrorist groups was so vague that it risked running afoul of the First Amendment."
Registration required--but you should be reading the NY Times anyway. I now get it through my RSS reader.
Disagreeing with Jessamyn that this isn't a "library" part of the Patriot Act; it is part of the Act designed to produce a chilling effect, and that affects the search for information, and that's about us.
This is a short, readable discussion about human rights in Cuba, from Human Rights Watch.
The Campaign for Peace and Democracy has two excellent statements about Cuba on its Web site to add to your collection of sensible critiques of the policies of both the United States and Cuba. These statements strike exactly the right balance, neither forgiving of ludicrous, jingoistic U.S. policies or unsparing of the spring 2003 crackdown or other human rights violations in Cuba.
CFD Protests U.S. Actions Against Cuba:
Campaign for Peace and Democracy Statement Protesting Repression in Cuba:
Good for him! He made reference to being a "good patriot," wink wink, nudge nudge. Catch his comments online, once the program is archived, at http://www.prairiehome.org/.
Nat Hentoff’s response to "ALA AND CUBA: who’s afraid of Nat Hentoff"
FROM Library Journal Academic newswire. Jan. 22, 2004
The letter that follows my comments below was republished with Mr. Hentoff's permission and encouragement. Nat, good for you! This morning I was spending thought and prayer on this issue, trying to decide how to put light back on the real crisis: 75 people remain in jail for defending the rights to read and to speak, and to own and share books. Talk about an angel of mercy.
For the record, Nat did call me before ALA. When he heard I would not be taking action on the issue, he was clearly disappointed, but polite, and he did not call again. Then without any further communication with Nat, my heart changed, my mind changed, and I chose to take action, and when Nat found out, he did indeed call me back, with words of encouragement. I feel honored to have had his wise counsel and advice. I have had far more, and far less polite, communiques from people on the other side of the issue.
It was not easy to promote this amendment when I had people I have known for a long time tell me that I was wrongheaded, and when I knew, deep down, it would crash in defeat. The occasional pugilistic, scolding comments from the handful of Friends of Cuban Librarians activists only made me wince. I prefer a more Ghandi-esque activism. Hectoring and insulting my peers--even when they are completely wrong--just won't get us there, and even if it were effective in the short term, it wouldn't be good strategy in the long term, at least not in my book.
It was hard to go so far out on a limb, with friends rolling their eyes and some whispering that they would like to support me, but just couldn't. However, supporting the amendment became easier when some of my peers on Council offered their own rationalizations. One Councilor speculated that the prisoners had committed other crimes, which were the real reasons they were imprisoned. Another Councilor said in Council Forum, "the only prisoners I care about in Cuba are the ones in Guantanemo." That flippant comment put more wind in my sails than this oh-so-New-York-cool Councilor realized. (Grow up, girlfriend. People are in jail, some for sentences of over twenty years.) Several Councilors who had voted on the dozen or so resolutions on free speech issues in other countries we had considered in the last decade said they didn't think ALA should interfere in "foreign affairs."
As for John Berry of Library Journal, he didn't mind making a crack in passing, on the floor of Council, about my support for the "CIA operatives." That's how objective and informed that journalist is. Berry's stilted and misleading coverage of this issue doesn't surprise me, and I'm glad to see a journalist of Nat's calibre call Berry on his increasingly slap-dash "reporting."
Nat is entitled to write about Cuba, and criticize the American Library Association, until the cows come home--or more accurately, until the prisoners are released--and, if he wants to, beyond. That's why they call it free speech, Rossi. If LJ considers Nat a "threat," then they can count me among Nat's thugs.
I too will keep thinking, writing, praying, talking, researching, and working on this issue. I am moving into the second phase of my activism. I'm not completely sure what form it will take--or whether I will even bother to involve the American Library Association, which appears to be happy to wave the flag for "Banned Book Week" activities such as "Free People Read Freely," as long as we're discussing privileged Americans. Consider yourselves threatened.
Rock on, Nat. Thank you for making me proud all over again of my stand on this issue. I may not have much company, but I know I am right. In "Writers in Prison," Joan Smith & Adolfo Fernandez Sainz observe, “Terrible things happen when the world's attention is diverted.” Let us put the light back where it belongs--on the people in jail for bravely championing the rights we as librarians have always stood for.
The letter follows:
Letter to LJ from Nat Hentoff
In view of the ALA Council’s overwhelming rejection of an amendment to its Final Report at the midwinter meeting that called for the largest organization of librarians in the world to demand of Fidel Castro that he release the ten independent librarians in Cuban prison for 20 years and more, the headline on that Library Journal report should more accurately have been: WHO’S AFRAID OF THE CASTRO DEFENDERS ON THE ALA COUNCIL? The Library Journal significantly omitted in its charges against me the rejection of the amendment to the amendment to release the librarian prisons by the ALA Council.
But the Library Journal accused me “of actually phoning library leaders, including staff at Library Journal, and threatened to write more hostile columns if the ALA didn’t take the position he demanded”- to release the imprisoned Cuban librarians. These librarians, it is pertinent to note, have been designated by Amnesty International as “prisoners of conscience.”
I did not phone the Library Journal, although I should have in appreciation of its favorable October review of my current book, “The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance.” In the course of my reporting on that book, I often informed sources at the Justice Department that I would continue writing columns critical of John Ashcroft’s war on the Bill of Rights so long as that war continued.
Would the Library Journal characterize such calls as “threatening,” or a continued attempt by a reporter to get explanations of the secret implementation of sections of the Patriot Act and subsequent executive orders?
For another example, for more than five years, I was the only American journalist to repeatedly report on the slavery, genocide and gang rapes perpetrated by forces of the National Islamic government in Sudan on black Christians and traditionalists in the South. I called the Africa Desk of the State Department and other government agencies to tell them that I was still writing about the administration’s indifference to these human rights atrocities. The Bush administration finally took some actions, though still too inadequate, at the urging of black preachers around the country, the American Anti-Slavery Group and other who had been among my sources for my “threatening” letters to the State Department.
In WHO’S AFRAID OF NAT HENTOFF?, the Library Journal reports that “the ALA joined the IFLA to “express deep concern” over the arrest and long prison terms of political dissidents in Cuba.” But the Library Journal failed to indicate how such a deep concern without including a demand for the release of these prisoners for some of whom are in poor health and are not receiving medical treatment was in any real way sufficient?
Also, the Library Journal reported that the ALA and the IFLA “supported an investigative visit from the UN Commission on Human Rights.” But the Library Journal neglected to remind its readers that among the members of the UN Commission on Human Rights are Cuba and such other paladins of free expression as Zimbabwe, China, and Sudan. And that the UN Human Rights Commission, following Castro’s April crackdown that sent the 75 dissenters, including the 10 librarians, to prison refused to pass a condemnation of Castro and also rejected a resolution by Costa Rica calling for the immediate release of the prisoners.
I teach journalism at NYU’S Graduate School of Journalism, and I
continually- though not threateningly – remind students of the crucial importance of context in reporting. The article, WHO’S AFRIAD OF NAT HENTOFF? will be cited by me when I return to teaching in the fall.
And I continue to not understand why only five or so of the 182-member ALA governing Council raised their hands in support of the amendment to release the prisoners. Were the prisoners regarded as abstractions rather than actual human beings, abandoned in filthy cells for acting on the freedom-to-read principle at the core of the ALA’s reason for being?
The Library Journal mentioned that I was a “winner of ALA’s Immroth Award for Intellectual Freedom.” In the Village Voice I will be publicly demanding – not threatening – that the ALA remove my name from the list of Immroth Award winners because I do not regard it any longer as an honor.
Faxed to Steve Fesenmaier who transcribed it to a computer and e-mailed it out.
Saturday, January 24, 2004 4:30 PM Charleston, West Virginia [ Mr. Hentoff does not use the web – for e-mail or otherwise.]
Jessamyn on librarian.net rightly called this a "can of whup-ass." Quickly donning my hat as state IFC chair, I'll add that it has been a blast working with the ACLU on this issue. Like her, I can't resist putting the graphic in my blog. I've written ACLU to ask if we can get a version for Web sites. (I think this ad is going to be the "blue ribbon campaign" for this year, if not several years hence.)
I try to keep Free Range Librarian very, very separate from my work life (notwithstanding my tendency to draft posts in between finishing sections of long projects, as I did today--sort of like tossing a sardine to a seal). However, I can't resist noting that Librarians' Index to the Internet now offers a native RSS feed, plus a tutorial for using RSS feeds for the first time. See:
Kudos to Jon and Bill for their quite clever coding. I've done one post to Web4Lib, with great results, and expand the announcement tomorrow.
And if you're in (or merely interested in) Washington State, You Read It First Here: here's extra stuff every week, just for you Evergreen Peeps, at http://lii.org/wsl.rss
Well, durned if Monika Antonelli, ALA Councilor, doesn't do voices for anime! See:
I have absolutely no, zero, graphic skills. As a signature graphic for this site, I would love an elegant, old-tymey black and white image of a chicken (perhaps wearing glasses?) to enhance this site. Anyone have a particularly nice public-domain graphic to offer?
Here's another bug up my fanny about ALA and technology, and one I've been battling for at least seven years.
We don't broadcast the ALA Council transcripts, and we don't make them available online.
Before you step up and say, "but gee--that sounds expensive," let me tell you what we do spend money on. If you stop in Council chambers during a session, you will see that we hire a highly competent transcriber who keys the discussion into a computer in near-real-time, and the transcripts are simultaneously projected on two huge screens.
So the transcripts are already keyed in, and though that's surely expensive, that's a Good Thing. We provide them for the hearing disabled, but most of us benefit from being able to read the screen during the sessions (particularly those of us who worked on airplanes in our youth and no longer do well in less-than-optimal sound settings).
We could easily and inexpensively piggyback on this technology (and on this expense), and project Council sessions in the same real-near-time, so that ALA members could follow the sessions anywhere in the world--from the exhibit floor, from a hotel room, from anywhere in the world people can access the Internet.
We could also make the transcripts available online, for later review. These are open meetings, so we have nothing to hide--right?
So why don't I propose this? I have. I proposed a resolution on this issue in my first Council session--what is that, 1996?--and I was hooted down. I don't mean I was voted down. I was laughed at, on the Council floor, as if I had proposed that, say, the earth was round. Two people voted for my resolution besides me (I had more votes on the Cuba resolution than on this issue). I remember them well--the Superintendent of Documents, and Marvin Scilken. God bless 'em both. I think Marvin was being kind, and the SuDoc was being savvy (a smart man who knows better than to go on record opposing access to information).
Still, I'm right on this issue, and time is on my side, so I keep raising it. I brought this up last year, more informally, and didn't get quite as much flack. I'd love to see more ALA members, on Council or otherwise, ask for this service. I'd like to see us go just a little bit farther, take something we already do, and make it truly accessible.
As one colleague said, watching the Council sessions in real-time may sound boring, but people do watch C-Span. I can easily see ALA junkies watching the sessions, not only from far away, but from as close as a meeting room across from Council. All it would take is a computer with Internet access. (And that's the next peeve to moan about.)
This is a report on ALA Council from Jim Casey, ALA Councilor at Large, PUBLIB member, and director of the Oak Lawn (IL) Public Library. Jim does such a thorough job with his ALA reports that I really can't top what he has to say (even when I disagree with him--and we sat next to one another but couldn't have been farther apart on the Cuba issue). Useful and insightful. Thanks, Jim!
ALA MIDWINTER MEETING in San Diego, California, January 8-14, 2004
Notes prepared by James B. Casey
This was the first Mid Winter Meeting in San Diego for Diane and I and the weather and program itself were excellent. As of the end of business on Monday, attendance at this Mid Winter was at 10,788, a full 26.7% behind the 13,664 recorded for by the same period at Mid Winter
2003 in Philadelphia. Although a beautiful location and near to the Los Angeles area, San Diego isn't within reasonable driving distance of as many very large cities as is Philadelphia --- New York, Baltimore, Washington, Newark, Boston and even Pittsburgh and Cleveland (from which
I drove with a carload of impoverished colleagues back in 1982).
Vendors made some ominous noises about low floor traffic in the exhibits and are reviewing their attendance at future Mid Winter Meetings.
OLPL Trustees Shirley Barrett and Marian Sullivan continued their service on ALTA Committees and joined us for a pleasant dinner on the evening of January 10. (ALTA = Association for Library Trustees and
Advocates) Diane continued in her position as Chair of CCS Policy and
Planning Committee and is the CCS representative to the ALCTS Planning Committee. (CCS = Cataloging and Classification Section. ALCTS = American Association of Library Collections and Technical Services). I began my seventh year as a Member of ALA Council and secured petition support for re-election to another three-year term as a
Councilor-at-Large (Spring 2004). Election results will be posted on
COMMITTEE ON LEGISLATION - LEGISLATION ASSEMBLY. Following a brief meeting of the GODORT (Government Documents Round Table) Legislation Committee, the Committee on Legislation hosted its Legislative Assembly. Reports were given by members relative to issues currently facing ALA Washington Office Lobbyists. Great concern was expressed about the tendency of the Bush Administration to go beyond the normal behavior characteristic of administrations to "put their policy stamp"
on web sites and documents. It was noted that the Bush Administration
has frequently removed information provided in government studies that contradict their policy positions under the guise that such findings are
"out of date" or "archived". ALAWO reports that: "In August 2003, the
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Minority Staff, Special Investigations Division issued 'Politics and Science in the Bush Administration'
which reports numerous instances where the Administration has manipulated the scientific process and distorted or suppressed scientific findings."
The Government Printing Office has also been pressing to reduce access or charge for previously "free" (that is, paid for by tax dollars) documents and that Congressional Research Service Reports have become less accessible than at any time in the past. According to ALAWO (ALA Washington Office): "On November 11, 2003, 59 organizations and 3 individuals wrote to Representatives Mark Green and Christopher Shays to express their dismay at the discontinuation of the 'Index of Congressional Research Service Reports.' [A copy of the letter is on
the www.ala.org/ogr site] On November 21, 2003, Rep. Christopher Shays
introduced HR 3630 which would 'make available on the internet, for purposes of access and retrieval by the public, certain information available through the Congressional Research Service web site.'" ALA Washington Office has been actively promoting the public's "Right to
Know" information created and paid for by tax dollars. Restrictions
emerging since September 11, 2001 have posed a major problem for public access to government information.
Considerable support has been building from Congresspersons on both sides of the political aisle to affirm Privacy Rights in the wake of the
Patriot Act and proposed Patriot Act II. Also, good news came in the
form of expected approval of very good funding for LSTA during the next fiscal year. In this one area, the Bush Administration has proven to be a very positive force (or possibly, via the influence of the First Lady).
Another threat emphasized in this Assembly was the introduction on October 8, 2003 of HR 3261 "The Database and Collections of Information
Misappropriation Act" out of the Republican controlled House. This
bill would make it more difficult for libraries to obtain 'fair use'
exceptions to the kind of 'shrink wrap' or 'click wrap' contracts that are designed to maximize profit at the expense of open access.
The ALA WO BRIEFING was led by ALAWO Director Emily Sheketoff. She
announced that May 3-4 would be the National Legislative Day program in
Washington, D.C.. She also promoted the virtual Legislative Action
Center prepared by the WO staff http://capwiz.com/ala This web site
offers a "scorecard" which shows how congresspersons voted on various
issues. She urges us to become acquainted with this site and to thank
supporters of Library positions and question those who oppose us. The
notion of a 'groundswell' of opinion can sometimes strengthen our
Emily made the unexpected announcement that a firm by the name of
Working Assets http://www.workingassets.com/ has joined forces with ALA
Washington Office to encourage voters to register on-line at their
public library. The web site to which
prospective voters are to go is http://www.yourvotematters.org
National publicity would encourage voters to come to their public
library to register to vote. For each registration secured at a public
library facility via the yourvotematters.org web site, ALA will receive
$1.50 and for each change of address update $.50 will go to ALA.
Cooperating libraries will be eligible to apply for grants from ALA.
After this session, I asked Emily whether or not this program had been
reviewed with PLA or any other public library group before being
launched. She indicated that the whole agreement had just been hammered
out with Working Assets the night before and that no literature or
detailed information was available. I urged Emily to hold back on this
project and on the publicity until she had conferred with public
librarians as to the impact on public expectations and demand emerging
suddenly in an election year (primaries are a few days or weeks off).
At this point, I am uncertain that my warnings were heeded.
E-Rate was discussed in the most favorable terms in the sense that we
need to continue defending the program from Congressional critics and
emphasize how enormously helpful it has been. Although some $376
million have reportedly been received by Libraries during the past six
years (and about $63 million per year), there are still a vast majority
of libraries which do not participate. In a room with about 80 to 100
people in attendance, the speaker asked how many were currently applying
for E-Rate. Only about 20 of us raised our hands. "That's
encouraging!" He said. I did not find it so and shudder at what
Congresspersons would hear if they venture to randomly call public
library administrators from their districts to ask how important (or
even relevant) the E-Rate has been to their libraries during the past 6
years. Lynne Bradley, ALAWO Staffer, indicated that the E-Rate is not
under direct attack, but that efforts will be made during February to
embarrass the program with allegations of "waste, fraud and abuse".
PATRIOT ACT challenges continue including a new bill (HR 3037) which
would allow "administrative subpoenas" (subpoenas which can be issued
automatically and without the authorization of a judge) for business
ALAWO Staffer Rick Weingarten indicated that many important battles lie
ahead for "the soul of the Internet". Major trends he noted were: 1/
Increased costs for access. 2/ Assault on anonymity. 3/ Telecom
collision (?), and 4/ Privatization.
As in past Conferences and Mid Winter Meetings, I have been impressed by
the vast amount of detailed knowledge handled by the ALAWO and by the
ALA Committees dealing with these issues. Although the news is often
bad, our efforts to stem the tide have been laudable.
The local political scene for libraries had been adversely affected by
past budget cutting and worse was expected after the announcement by
newly hatched Governor Arnold "the Terminator" Schwarzenager that future
budget cuts would also be massive. This tightening of the budget
situation may have had an impact upon the ability of attendees to come
to San Diego from elsewhere in the "anything but golden" State of
ALA COUNCIL: EXECUTIVE BOARD REPORT AND MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION
SESSION. This session included reports from the ALA Executive
Director, the BARC (Budget Analysis and Review Committee) and also from
the Endowment Fund. On the whole, 2003 saw very large gains in the long
term investments - far better returns than in past "up years". The
endowment fund increased from the area of $11 million to $18 million
through investments and property sales. On the other hand, the APA
(Allied Professional Association) raised only $5,992 from Member
contributions during its first year (2003) while the projections of 2002
had been for about $48,000 raised by this source. I urged that the
executive leaders of APA find a way to make the donation mechanism on
the ALA Membership renewal forms more apparent and less obscure.
Donations to the APA are provided as an option on the renewal forms, but
the fact that they must be solely from out of member pockets (cannot be
paid with tax money or reimbursed) needs to be made clearer and the
reason for the contributions needs to be presented more clearly.
ALA RESOLUTIONS COMMITTEE: In my third year as a Member of the
Resolutions Committee of ALA Council, I was able to assist with the
checking of Resolutions submitted by Councilors on a number of
occasions. In one case, I assisted the past President of ALA with
editorial and format changes at the ALA Office until well after 10 PM.
My term on Resolutions Committee ends in June 2005.
COUNCIL I: This very brief session included several reports from
Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels on Executive Board actions since
the Annual Meeting of 2003 and also on the implementation of Council
directives from Annual Conference. A Resolution of little practical
importance which consumed a considerable amount of discussion time was
on ALA Election Endorsement and Use of Funds. The elections in question
were internal, ALA elections and not national political elections. This
resolution prohibited ALA from expending monies on endorsement of any
particular candidate for ALA office (President and Treasurer), but left
endorsement issues to the governing bodies of each of the various Round
Tables and Divisions. The resolution was, as I recall, rejected. -
Council was unanimous and enthusiastic in awarding Honorary ALA
Memberships to eminent cataloger and former Council Member Sander Berman
and to internationally known and respected Librarian Norman Horrocks.
Following this Council Session were speeches by candidates for ALA
Executive Board (including Nann Blaine Hilyard from Illinois). All
gave excellent speeches and answered difficult questions - including one
from me concerning the willingness of the candidates to insist upon
Librarian credentials as qualifications for filling of senior management
positions in ALA. We learned on Wednesday, January 14, that Janet Swan
Hill and Nann Blaine Hilyard were elected to the ALA Executive Board for
terms commencing in July 2004. Both are extremely well qualified and
will serve the Association well.
COUNCIL FORUM: This is an informal caucus of Councilors which generally
occurs late in the evening prior to Council I or Council II. In this
case it was Monday evening and the two topics under discussion involved
some intense disagreement. The former President of ALA - Maurice
Freedman - indicated his outrage that the law firm retained by ALA over
many years (Jenner & Block) had agreed to take on divine, Inc. as a
client. Divine was the company which (it has been charged) squandered
many millions of dollars which had been paid by thousands of Libraries
across the country Faxon - RoweCom to purchase periodical and journal
subscriptions. At least $50 million and perhaps $100 million in
precious subscription dollars vanished in an Enron type maneuver which
left libraries across the United States in an extremely difficult
position during late 2002 and early 2003. Dr. Freedman presented a
resolution for discussion at this session which would set a specific
policy requiring legal counsel retained by ALA to not accept clients who
are (or have been) in litigation with ALA and also to refuse clients
whose actions have materially damaged ALA, libraries and publishers.
--- I assisted Dr. Freedman with the wording of this resolution so that
it could appear on the Council III agenda and was unable to remain for
the discussion on whether or not ALA should pass a resolution deploring
the Castro regime's treatment of dissidents in Cuba.
COUNCIL II: This long session saw the rejection of a seemingly simple,
innocuous resolution to replace the 1892 vintage motto of ALA and the
delay to Council III of a resolution demanding the repeal of the Patriot
Act. As usual, Council debated issues at length. Another seemingly
harmless resolution deploring the closure of Clark University Library
School (in Georgia) was debated and battered at length and also referred
to Council III (if not later) because it lacked specific remedies for
prevention of future Library school closings. The Treasurer's Report
for 2003 was competently delivered and revealed the near miraculous
completion of the year with a small surplus. (In the wake of the SARS
disaster in Toronto, it was feared that lost revenue would preclude any
black ink for the year.) I took issue with ALA's long term projections
of healthy U.S. economy and a rise of the Dow Jones from 10,000 to
15,000 by 2010 with the observation that the price of Gold bullion has
gone from $260 per ounce three years ago to $426.50 today (+64%). Gold
price increases have generally reflected long term pessimism and a
perception of global and economic instability. --- A new dues category
for "support staff" of $35 per year was debated at length and ultimately
passed. It was argued (convincingly) that some "support staff" earn
more money than MLS librarians (even directors) who work for
inadequately funded libraries. The strong advice from Council urged the
Committee to work for a graduated scale of dues which is triggered
solely by salary. Those earning the most should pay the most.
For the first time I can remember, the President of ALA did not travel
to New York City to discuss the Newberry and Caldecott selections on the
Today Show. President Carla Hayden stayed in San Diego and elected to
appear on a Fox news segment. Dr. Hayden indicated to us that she would
have been unable to attend any of the key meetings at this Mid Winter
with a transcontinental flight required for appearance at New York studios.
COUNCIL III. This session was shorter than expected due to the very
sensible decision of Council Members to withdraw resolutions which would
have consumed vast amounts of time, but which were also probably doomed
to failure --- Resolution on Human Rights in Cuba and Resolution to
Repeal the Patriot Act. In point of fact, the reasonable objectives of
both resolutions were achieved via outstanding Resolutions presented by
the International Relations Committee (on Cuba) and Committee on
Legislation (Patriot Act). ALA will deplore limitations on
Intellectual Freedom in Cuba without demanding specific action to
release prisoners held by the Cuban government. This, in effect, kept
the focus on Intellectual Freedom and avoided ventures into specific
"foreign policy" measures. Committee on Legislation (COL) kept focus
on calling for repeal of specific portions of the Patriot Act and headed
off demands for total repeal of the act. Thus, the successful strategy
of opposition to the Patriot Act will probably grind forward through
2004. COL also achieved overwhelming support for opposition by ALA to
HR 3261 - the "Database and Collection of Information Misappropriation
Act" and thereby indicated strong commitment to fight against
encroachments on "fair use" in the digital age. --- Among the
disappointments was the rejection of a portion of the excellent
resolution presented by Past President Maurice J. Freedman entitled
"Resolution to Establish ALA Policy for Retaining Legal Counsel". It
called for the expression of great disappointment by the ALA Executive
Board with the ALA law firm Jenner & Block for representing "divine,
Inc." against charges by the U.S. government in grand jury inquiries.
The other segment of this resolution was referred to BARC (Budget
Analysis and Review Committee) and will therefore probably not resurface
before Annual. Those of us who felt that ALA needed to step forward
NOW and demonstrate a determination to begin holding "corporate friends"
to accountability were disappointed. The divine, Inc. subsidiaries
RoweCom and Faxon were all designated as "corporate champions" of ALA at
the very time when they were accepting tens of millions of subscription
dollars that were allegedly being diverted by devine, Inc. to other
schemes. The affiliation with ALA gave devine, Inc and RoweCom a
fascade of trust and respectability which may have prompted less
trustful libraries to keep on sending in money despite rumors that the
firm may have been in trouble.
This session of Council ended at about 12:20 PM.
CONCLUSION: This Mid Winter was in one of the most beautiful sites any
of us can remember, and also proved to be reasonably productive when it
came to sensible resolutions on the difficult issues of Cuba and
continued opposition to the Patriot Act. It was less productive with
regard to ALA formulating a stronger representation of "due diligence"
when it comes to holding corporations and the Association's Law firm to
accountability. As before, the Committee on Legislation continued to
work skillfully and well and the ALA Washington Office showed much
effective leadership despite increasingly difficult conditions both on
Capital Hill and in the Administration with issues involving privacy and
access to government information. The International Relations Committee
did a splendid job of devising a resolution on Cuba that represented our
commitment to Intellectual Freedom while avoiding antagonism towards any
of the political parties involved.
My sincerest thanks go to the Oak Lawn Public Library for supporting my
participation in ALA.
James B. Casey,
January 14, 2004
I just added a blogroll featuring the library-related sites I subscribe to via RSS. That's the good news. (Or it's the good news if you remotely care what I read.)
The bad news is this addition to the meandering left column of FRL makes it even more painfully clear that I need to redesign this blog, which needs a three-column format and could use a little color, but it won't happen until February. I'm toying with taking online classes in XHTML and CSS this spring. It's either that, or give it up and go to Typepad. But that's a metaphor for my world right now, anyway. Many of us are in a similar balancing act, torn between traditional and new librarianship.
Ah, back in the day, when information came in two colors (black and white) and fairly limited shapes and sizes. From a cup of joe to a half-caff low-fat caramel macchiato with extra foam...
Just one week after Wired broke news of greatly intensified crackdowns on Internet access in Cuba, IFLA took action in a strongly-worded press release.
I am posting this message verbatim. I have a lot to say about it, but I thought it would be worth putting it out there for you to read "as-is." Well, I'll make this one comment--the U.S. embargo didn't "cause" the arrest of the Cuban dissidents. That's "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" logic, and it is the kind of reasoning used to defeat the language of the proposed amendment.
Incidentally, the final Task Force report on Cuba criticizes the U.S. embargo, as did my withdrawn resolution and the supporting text for the defeated amendment.
Dear Ms. Schneider:
I know that you are prepared to present a resolution about Cuba at the next meeting of ALA’s Council in San Diego, and more specifically about what is called “…the prison sentences of Cuban citizens for maintaining private libraries.”
Given that I perceive in your approach to the subject an important dose of misleading information or of opinions formed from unilateral points of view about the reality of my country, allow me to recommend to you one last thought before you make your decision that you consider most appropriate, since without a doubt, it is your right.
1) Any approach to the current reality of Cuban society, including the political, since the subject which you have chosen to broach is without a doubt political, can’t avoid the existence of the blockade of your country’s government against all Cuban people, that item from more than forty five years ago has had as a result, innumerable suffering by innocent people and the distortion of the normal course of our lives. If you are an honest and well-intentioned person, as I presume, will you agree with me, and with 179 countries of the world community who just voted against the blockade for the 10th consecutive year in the United Nations, that this must cease in order that Cuba can live, develop and exist free of foreign interferences and threats.
2) The blockade and the war without deaths of your government against the Cuban people, against their laws and constitutional order constitute a direct cause, proven and verified of the most flagrant violation to the right of Cubans and U.S. citizens to the free access to information about their realities, of the right to travel freely and to know at first hand about life in both countries. Additionally, in the specific case of the Cuban librarians, it is a source of constant assault to the work that we perform. Suffice it to say, it prevents us from buying books, computers, and conservation material in the United States, to subscribe to OCLC’s services, or maintain a stable interchange among colleagues. Would you be disposed to tackle this matter in San Diego?
3) The so-called “independent libraries” isn’t a subject linked with our profession, as some have tried to demonstrate without success, and others have said believing, with naïveté. If you really want to know all the facets about this subject, which is political, I refer you to the numerous reports from U.S. librarians and from your ALA colleagues, as well as IFLA authorities who have visited Cuba, since I presume that you haven’t done it.
I specifically am recommending for you to draw your own conclusions, taking all the possible information about this subject, before committing the error of adopting an inaccurate and unfair position. This is healthy advice, from one information professional to another.
4) Around this subject what is discussed is if some people, under the cloak of “librarians”, looking for the support of public opinion for their political agenda, and at the service of a hostile superpower that, as has been demonstrated with photos and proven documents, pay their services, coordinate and promote their activities and supply them with support material, have the right of violating the laws and the constitution that governs my country, by majority decision of the population, defending the overthrow of the constituted authorities. This, Mrs. Schneider, and not freedom of speech nor free access to information is what is what one should discuss around your resolution about Cuba. The United States Code punishes those who, at the service of a hostile power, conspire against the stability of the institutions of your country.
5) Bear in mind, finally, that in Cuba it isn’t a crime to have private libraries, to loan books, or to read what you want. Cuba doesn’t have illiteracy and it is the country of the world with more teachers per capita, and where books are sold at a low price. Doesn’t it seem to you, that if Mr.
Robert Kent’s accusations were true, our reality would be different?
I don’t know if you know who Mr. Kent is and who supports his campaign against the real Cuban librarians. I recommend for to you to find out before putting yourself on his side, or collaborating with his objectives.
I hope that these points of view are of your interest and help you to qualify your position towards Cuba. I hope from you rationality and good sense, and I thank you for your interest that you take in my country, where I hope to welcome you some day.
Lic. Eliades Acosta Matos, Director
National Library "José Martí"
Not too surprisingly, the amendment (Council Document 55.1) was voted down. It was felt that the report "finesses" the complex Cuban situation. Councilors called for us to "stay away" from foreign relations.
I will withdraw the resolution; it doesn't make sense to have this conversation again later this morning. ALA has spoken. I don't call it ALA's "shame," and I feel that the shrill name-calling from some sectors within and outside our association alienates ALA members. But I do think that those of us who feel differently from ALA need to take it to other arenas and other venues if we seek change on this issue.
I would like to think that I have affected positive change by raising the issue well enough in advance to influence the final wording of the IRC/IFC Report on Cuba. The report goes farther in criticizing human rights abuses in Cuba than it would have without additional light on this topic. It doesn't shame ALA to produce this document... but it's not going to help Victor Arroyo.
If you folks can believe this, a resolution to rescind the ALA motto was defeated. The Pleistocenes on Council reared their heads and noticed that Janet Swan Hill (who received my vote for EB) had proposed we finally kill this tagline, first introduced when Benjamin Harrison was president: "The best reading, for the largest number, at the least cost."
SRRT pushed another resolution to Council III, ensuring Council III will be so busy that we aren't going to get to everything on it. This tactic is similar to holding the report in committee and claiming it is in draft, when in reality IFC and IRC finished their work on it this Sunday. It's not surprising, but it's still not kosher.
Meanwhile, here is a proposed change to the IRC/IFC report. We may not get far enough to consider this, but if accepted, it would significantly strengthen the report on Cuba.
Most amendments and substitutions are not prepared in advance (and it's ironic that some Councilors will have access to my proposed amendment a day before they have access to the report). However, this gives me a chance to offer not only the amendment, but to provide a rationale for it that may win over some Councilors, or at least give them more to think about.
I found the rogue wifi hub; it's in the ALA office, delivering network services to some of the computers. (Actually, I didn't see the hub itself, but I did see the wifi USB adapters velcroed to the sides of computers.) Pretty good range... I think I'm a good 300 feet away, and the signal reports it is "very good."
If we can deliver it to the office, we can deliver it to Council chambers.
Registration for the day stands at 10,000+ -- about 2,000 down from Philly (Midwinter 2003).
Activist Sanford Berman and parliamentarian guru Norman Horrocks approved for honorary lifetime ALA membership. Woohoo!
CD 56 (Policy on Endorsements and Use of Funds) went down in flames. We now continue our lack of clarity related to division endorsements. I am very opposed to divisions piffling money on elections, but that resolution contradicted itself and muddied the waters, and I voted against it.
Council Forum is tonight, 8-9:30, New York/Orlando rooms.
Monday: still have free wireless. I saw two hubs: Instant Internet and "linksys." The former would redirect me to a $25/day service. The second is the open free hub, wherever it is and whoever is providing it.
From time to time on Council list, I have vented, fruitlessly, about the Current Reference File. But why stop there? Let me bore you folks, as well! Seriously, it's an important issue, a very pivotal issue in terms of moving ALA to new technologies, and one the ALA young'uns should think and talk about.
To explain the Current Reference File (henceforth, the CRF), we need to step back one level and discuss the ALA Handbook of Organization. This is a print publication, currently over 200 pages long, distributed annually by mail to all ALA members. The Handbook includes ALA bylaws, the policy manual, information about the divisions, contact information for key ALA members (those on committees, for example), and other important information.
Because the Handbook is a large print publication, expensive to compile, print, and distribute, it has been longstanding practice to print only portions of policies and other key documents in the Handbook itself, and to refer members to a resource called the Current Reference File. For a lengthy paper document, this makes sense.
Access to the Handbook is a Good Thing. Not only do we have a paper version, with the expected companion resource, the monstrously large PDF version also placed online, we also have a really useful digital version. The Handbook has been faithfully recreated as a Web page, which is a seemingly Good Thing, as well--except for a catch. The reproduction is faithful to a fault: all of the policies truncated in the print version, for perfectly reasonable cost-saving measures, are also truncated in the online version.
This is how the Policy Manual refers to the CRF:
"The full text of pertinent position statements, policies, and procedures is retained in the 'Current Reference File' at ALA Headquarters. Outdated policies will be retained in an historical file at the ALA Headquarters. Both of these files will be available at the ALA Headquarters and at the Midwinter and Annual meetings."
This is exactly the case. These files are retained at ALA, and paper versions of these documents are literally placed in a large trunk and shipped to every ALA conference.
Most of you by now can appreciate just how antiquated ALA is in this practice. You understand that these days, nearly all documents shared among ALA members start as digital content, and all of them end up digitized in the process of becoming formally part of ALA's content history. You also appreciate that the justification for omitting content from a print manual disappears entirely when the document goes online. (As for additional space required for the content, I would be extremely surprised if the entire omitted content took up more space than that on the tiny USB flash drive I stuff with key materials and pop into my dress pocket on the way out of the hotel room.)
The embargoed CRF documents may occasionally see limited paper publication during the earliest part of their life cycles, when members of ALA review, revise, and consider these documents, but for the most part, early on, these documents exist exclusively online, scattered across divisional lists, portions of the Web site, and personal collections. It is only in the process of producing a paper document, which is used to generate the online document, that the documents are "disappeared" in the manner of Latin American dissidents.
The net result of this antiquated practice is that when you read the policies in the Web version of the Policy Manual, you get the "resolved" clauses--the action items--but you do not have access to the "whereas" clauses which frequently provide crucial background to the logic that went into the policies, and you are also bereft of the many outstanding background materials that ALA members produce in the course of drafting ALA policy.
These background documents--reports, backgrounders, and so forth--are an important part of the historical record of oru association, and also deserve our attention and respect as resources generated through the blood, sweat, toil and tears of ALA members, either on personal time or through the largesse of their library institutions.
On the Council list, I have repeatedly recommended that the items in the Current Reference File should be placed (and organized!) online and linked to in full from the Policy Manual (as well as other ALA documents). Councilors understand and appreciate my point, but I have not made similar inroads with ALA staff. My last request met the response that it would take too many staff resources.
I'm sympathetic to the fiscal constraints on ALA, and I accept some blame for not tackling the problem more directly. After all, I'm not simply suggesting we convert and link to existing documents (although that is part of my request). I'm recommending that ALA change its process, so that the online, Web-available version of the Handbook becomes the "Current Reference File." Implicit in my questions, my pleas, and my requests is the understanding that business as usual would change with respect to all ALA policies and related documents, and that we would anticipate the availability of these documents almost as soon as they became the law of our association.
And if we did that, it's possible we could evaluate automatically printing and mailing close to 100,000 bulky manuals every year. Maybe the paper handbook could be restricted to information that is best distributed in paper, or we could boil it down to several pages that outline the full handbook and explain to members what it offers and why they need it. Imagine how much paper--and money--we would save if every handbook, every year, were several hundred pages shorter.
Sometimes people object to electronic formats because they are hard to read. I prefer reading the New York Times in paper. I don't have the same problem with the Handbook, because I read short portions for it on an as-needed basis. And frankly, even with the best indexing, I'll put online keyword access against a paper index any day. As I sit here in Council on my live, free wireless connection, ask me what I would rather do--thumb through a heavy paper manual (wearily lugged from home to conference to Council chambers and back), or nimbly keyword search an online document.
I am not looking for much right now--just a sympathetic comment that this issue would go on the docket at some vague point in the future. Or shall we do it ourselves, and call for action with a timeline attached, create a task force, and do it that way? I just feel that ALA staff can make this happen without extensive member involvement in planning and guidance.
These are not a huge number of documents. If they can fit in a trunk, along with many other things we drag to our conferences, they represent a reasonable, none-too-ambitious digitization project any library would tackle if it wanted to improve access for a core collection. And of course, once ALA commits to providing these documents online, linked from the Policy Manual and elsewhere, there won't be any more retrospective conversion, because we will be placing documents online and linking them from the manual in "real time."
ALA, would you like to step up to the plate? Or shall we help you get there?
Son of a gun! I booted up my laptop in the Council chambers, only to find an open wireless network I could attach to. I'm a fur piece from the hotel, and it appears to be a different network, anyway.
After an amazingly tough year, ALA is in the black. Kudos to ALA staff, who faced budget downturns, SARS at Toronto, and other challenges.
The Cuba resolution I submitted to ALA Council will be on the agenda Wednesday morning, January 14 (Council III). It comes up then because that's when IRC presents its report, and it is germane to the IRC's report.
It's interesting how the process can affect outcomes. A report supposedly six months in the making isn't get on the agenda until the last day of Council. Is it because the report actually isn't ready? Is it because some ALA committees can only work face to face? Or is there also an element of preempting serious discussion and action on an item by placing it late on the agenda?
Meanwhile, I had the honor to give Beth Givens permission to distribute my August 2003 congressional testimony on RFID in an IFC session today. (By now, anyone outside of the library world has given up on this posting. Apologies for the acronym soup.) I sat in on today's discussion, which was brief. I'm sitting in on IFC tomorrow, to listen to discussion both about Cuba and RFID, and will report back then, as well.
Things done today:
Sat in on Council orientation for a bit;
Presented on LII's history for an Internet Portals IG session;
Sat in on IFC;
Chit-chatted with many buddies;
Had a power lunch wth the Web Advisory subcomm chairs and the chair;
Met with resolution committee to discuss the Cuba resolution;
Cruised the exhibits fairly seriously for two hours.
Now off to the UIUC GSLIS party, and dinner with friends. (Last night's PUBLIB party was a hoot. Pictures to follow (sorry--left my USB cable for my camera at home at the last minute). Kudos to Michael McCulley for arranging it, and Ebsco for buying us drinks and serious noshes!)
The practical question I have for my readers is whether you can recommend a comprehensive, freely accessible concordance site.
The other observation I have, as reductive as it may seem, is that the Web may seem impersonal and mechanical to some, but many of the great resources on the Web are very genuine personifications of their authors.
One of our readers at LII asked us to find out what happened to www.concordance.com, which was one of the most useful and comprehensive concordance sites on the Web.
Our gentle reader quickly wrote back to say he had learned the answer. He had googled references from a librarian who had combined the results of several searches and come to the inevitable conclusion that Mr. Williams had died.
I had expressed my concerns that this was the case. Using the Internet Archive, I found the last version of www.concordance.com, from February 2003, and followed it to a picture of the maintainer. He looked unwell, and 54 is too young to retire. But he looked happy, and his wife of 25 years leaned toward him with a cozy familiarity.
Perhaps his death was sudden; perhaps it was slow. He didn't share his health issues with us. At any rate, following his death, his site apparently lumbered on without its maintainer, quietly deteriorating, until unseen hands decommissioned it.
www.concordance.com was the kind of hobbyist site I love to use in training, as an exception that proves the rule. It was extensive, well-maintained, useful, and accurate. On his site, he informed us that "he worked over 20 years as an Actuary, and eventually wrote major computer programs in Fortran, C, and other computer languages to do actuarial valuations and other utilities." His career sounds coolly analytical and formal, and yet his site was interesting, clever, warm, and extremely generous.
Many people used your site, Mr. Williams. Months after your death, months after the links no longer worked, hundreds of sites continued to link to your concordance. We waited for its reappearance until logic and hard facts convinced us it would not return. We now understand the site won't be back, but it's possible that someday, we will see you again.
Here's the schedule for Council. Btw, if people are interested, I can transcribe relevant debate on the fly and blog it in near-real-time, at least salient comments.
It's not clear when the Cuba resolution will be on the agenda; I would imagine Council II or III. Not to be facetious, but the best I can tell you folks who've asked is that Council meets in the Council chambers... usually a ballroom in the convention center.
ALA Council I: Monday, 1/12, 10:00 - 11:15
ALA Council II: Tuesday, 1/13, 9:45 - 12:15
ALA Council III: Wednesday, 1/14, 8:00 - 12:00
Note: at Council III, Intellectual Freedom Committee and the International Relations Committee each report for 10 minutes. (ALA CD #18) This is subject to change.
I needed to get this done by today as this was the deadline for electronic transmissions prior to the conference. Ergo, it's a draft, and a rough one, rattled out as fast as my little fingers could type it. I have a second, who should not be construed as endorsing everything in here, but in supporting the general resolution process.
Thanks to folks who have provided constructive input to date, and I welcome further input. -- kgs
DRAFT … RESOLUTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN CUBA …. DRAFT
WHEREAS, the American Library Association is a courageous champion of free speech in an open society; and
WHEREAS, the American Library Association has worked hard to develop strong working relationships worldwide with librarians, writers, publishers, journalists, and all those who champion the privacy, free speech, and the right to read; and
WHEREAS, in March, 2003, the Cuban government imprisoned 75 writers, journalists, and maintainers of independent book collections, and seized and destroyed private book collections; and
WHEREAS, these 75 prisoners have been charged with activities such as owning personal book collections and writing articles critical of the Cuban government; and
WHEREAS, the imprisonment of these 75 dissidents has been condemned by Amnesty International, which called this action an “unprecedented crackdown,” and Human Rights Watch, which said the March 2003 actions were “an all-out offensive against nonviolent dissidents, independent journalists, human rights defenders, independent librarians, and others brave enough to challenge the government's monopoly on truth”; and
WHEREAS, the Cuban government continues to hold these 75 dissidents in jail, and has destroyed the private book collections, which have been determined to include holdings such as copies of “the International Declaration of Human Rights” and the United States Constitution; and
WHEREAS, the activities these prisoners were charged with are the rights the American Library Association has long fought to preserve in our own country, and has fought for even harder as the twin shadows of surveillance and censorship threaten to fall over our own civil liberties; and
WHEREAS, Policy 53.4 of the American Library Association, “Governmental Intimidation,” states, “The American Library Association opposes any use of government prerogatives which leads to the intimidation of the individual or the citizenry from the exercise of free expression. ALA encourages resistance to such abuse of government power, and supports those against whom such governmental power has been employed”; and
WHEREAS, in October, 2003, former President Jimmy Carter condemned the imprisonment of these 75 Cuban citizens “peaceably seeking to change their country's legislation and promote freedoms of expression and assembly,” and
WHEREAS, IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, joined the international critique of these arrests and crackdowns by urging “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”; and
WHEREAS, the United States and Cuba can both benefit by trade and travel agreements that encourage the mutual exchange of ideas and can help build trust among colleagues in these nations; and
WHEREAS, increasingly harsh U.S. trade and travel restrictions undermine the ability of the American Library Association and the Associacion Cubana de Bibliotecarios (ASCUBI) to continue to build a cordial and mutually beneficial relationship that had been strengthened by an ALA delegate visit to Cuba in 2001 and by visits from Cuban librarians to the ALA Annual Conference in Toronto, 2003; and
WHEREAS, IFLA has formally criticized the impact of the U.S. embargo for creating “inhibitions to professional interaction and exchange caused by the restrictions on travel to the US by Cuban nationals and to Cuba by US nationals”;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Council of the American Library Association asks the President of the Association to call for the immediate release of the 75 Cubans identified by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as imprisoned in March 2003 for promoting free speech and the right to read; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Council of the American Library Association encourages continued good relationships between the American Library Association the Associacion Cubana de Bibliotecarios (ASCUBI); and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Council of the American Library Association encourages the United States to pave the way to free travel and exchange between the U.S. and Cuba.
Moved: Karen G. Schneider, Councilor at Large
Seconded: Tom Wilding, Councilor
Karen G. Schneider
In his January 5, 2004 column in the Village Voice, Nat Hentoff once again takes on the issue of ALA and Cuba, replying to a letter to the editor by librarian Ann Sparanese who among other comments insists that Victor Arroyo, the man jailed for maintaining a collection of over 6,000 books, is not a librarian and is an agent of the state.
In the couple of weeks since I first wrote about this issue, I have had a number of librarians try to "educate" me about Cuba-U.S. relations, librarianship, free speech, and the professional credentials of Victor Arroyo. The (somewhat arrogant) assumption is that anyone questioning Cuba's actions, let alone suggesting human rights is a growing edge for Castro, is a dupe of the far right--even though the issues swirling around Cuba are those over which, as Nat Hentoff notes, the U.S. left appears to be divided; he observes, "there remains a division among the American left regarding Castro's recent crackdown that needs answering."
I have witnessed shameful, if unintentional, hypocrisy among my peers on the issue of Arroyo's status as a librarian, an issue which has also served as a convenient red herring for librarians clearly suffering from cognitive dissonance on the issue of free speech, as they swing like a screen door in the wind between their righteously clarion calls for free speech and privacy rights in this country, and their silence and ennui, amounting to a collective shrug, if not a wink, when the issue is free speech and human rights in Cuba.
Cuban-U.S. relations are horrendously complicated, and no side of this issue is free of shadows or impurities. (I am writing a much longer piece about our complex dance on the Cuba issue, and that has somewhat inhibited my blog postings, since this would amount to pre-publishing, but close your eyes and think "folie a deux.")
However, I am not without plenty of thoughts and conclusions, and, finally, a desire for action. I spent the last week, while on vacation, reading and thinking about Cuba and our library association, and I am ready to move into a second phase of activity. I will be bringing a resolution to ALA Council. I will be working on the wording of the resolution Tuesday, and it should be on the ALA calendar fairly early in the schedule, as so far there is only one other resolution on the docket.
I believe this resolution can at least survive a discussion on the floor of Council. And which side are you on? Do you realize how free you are to express your point of view?
Jenny Levine is rightly crowing over her latest achievement: a group license for digital audiobooks for patron checkout.
Illinois isn't the first state to do this, but Jenny and others benefited from the experience of their predecessors (after all, it's the second mouse that gets the cheese). And they've thought through the marketing and deployment issues very carefully.
I like the way they are offering a large package of books--1800 to start with. I despise, absolutely detest, those halfhearted gestures to offer a new format (followed months later by the conclusion, "why, this simply isn't catching on!"). Do it right, if you're going to do it. I also like how they're starting with a small group of libraries--just 12. That will give them a chance to observe and tweak before this gets rolled out on a bigger scale.
Kudos, folks. For some of us who have had the privilege of working in libraries in Illinois, we know this state is a promised land that sets the standard for sharing, service, and innovation. And no matter where we are, we're fortunate to live in such a networked society that the achievements in other areas are immediately there for us to see and learn from.
I told you they were after us. On December 31, news organizations trumpeted a national warning from the FBI "to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning."
Alert the press: the national security forces have learned freshman library skills. "The FBI said information typically found in almanacs that could be useful for terrorists includes profiles of cities and states and information about waterways, bridges, dams, reservoirs, tunnels, buildings and landmarks. It said this information is often accompanied by photographs and maps."
I get it! Be afraid of anyone who looks up a) a geographical location and b) a place of interest--in other words, any information enquiry any reasonable person might ask.
Thank goodness for the many members of the press who not only questioned but mocked this latest attempt to to legitimize invading our privacy and limiting what we read.
Welcome back, and here's a treat! ALA is implementing a major fix for its Web site that will drastically reduce the length of its URLs. Whew! This is the most-requested "fix" requested for the bungled upgrade famously rolled out last April during National Library Week.
More good things are on the way. Can't tell you what they are, or when they will arrive... stay tuned. And welcome to the New Year!