The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Friday, July 18, 2003

THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION AND CUBA: I realize that I really should be investigating the comic possibilities of eBay auctioning off JFK’s boxer shorts, but since no one on the right side of the blogosphere is bringing this up I will. The American Library Association’s annual conference was held in Toronto this year in conjunction with the Canadian Library Association’s annual conference, and I trust that a good time was had by all; I certainly had a good time when the conference was in Chicago a few years ago, and I still have the bag they gave to everyone who registered for the conference.

This year was different. This year’s conference embarrassed me as an American and as a librarian. The ALA, which has traditionally stood for the rights of every library user to read what they want without fear, managed somehow to come squarely out for Fidel Castro’s right to suppress the Cuban independent library movement in particular and the Cuban people in general. This should not be surprising since the ALA’s Latin American committee includes several long time Castro apologists, such as Mark Rozenzweig and Ann Sparanese. The ALA’s explanation for not seating the independent libraries, that they are not “professionals,” is baloney piled high and deep; the ALA is splitting hairs in order not to deal with this issue. It is gutlessness, pure and simple. The American Library Association, which screams in high dudgeon anytime someone wants to remove Huckleberry Finn from a library for being a racist book or when a parent thinks maybe the kids computer ought to have a Internet filter on it, looked into the face of real oppression and not only blinked, but managed to convince themselves that they weren’t blinking. At this point, it is frankly embarrassing to be a member of this organization.

The other thing that surprises me is the absolute lack of interest in this issue by anyone on the political right. The only non-library blog discussing this issue has been Randy at Beautiful Horizons, and Randy is well to the left of me…although, of course, most people are to the left of me. One would think, however, that the right would have a field day with the ALA’s rampant hypocrisy, but if we’ve said anything at all then I’ve somehow managed to miss the fireworks.

In any case, I urge any and all librarians who think that the ALA’s shameful conduct does not reflect well on either our profession and our country to do what I am going to do: withhold your dues. The leadership of the ALA cannot ignore the members when the members refuse to pay for the ALA’s ivory tower in Chicago. And just to make one final thing clear: I am PROUD to be in the same profession with the “nonprofessionals” of the Cuban independent library movement; I just wish the ALA was, too.


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