Library Juice 3:34 Supplement - September 6, 2000
Two reports from a March, 2000 trip to Cuba by a group of librarians
1. Rhonda L. Neugebauer's report from the March, 2000 trip
Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2000 10:02:02 -0500
To: SRRT Action Council <srrtac-l[at]ala.org>
From: "Rhonda L. Neugebauer" <neugebau[at]twsuvm.uc.twsu.edu>
Subject: [SRRTAC-L:4871] Report on Cuban Libraries
Dear SRRT and PLGNET-L subscribers:
With this message, I am sending you a copy of the report I wrote on Cuban
libraries for International Leads (a publication of the International
Relations Round Table of ALA) after leading a delegation of 17 librarians
to Cuba in March 2000. The article briefly describes two of the many
libraries that we visited and also provides some information about the
Cuban Library Association (ASCUBI).
Cuban libraries are an important component of Cuban society and serve
thousands of people on a daily basis. Librarians in Cuba are eager to
provide materials of all kinds to their users who are very well-educated
about Cuba and about the world. Librarians look for and deposit in their
collections materials with many different viewpoints, including materials
that are critical of the revolution, materials written by Cubans living
abroad and materials on human rights, such as the UN Universal Declaration
of Human Rights.
The development of libraries in Cuba has been hampered by the economic and
political isolation of the country, a movement led by the U.S. with its
singular support for and now Congressionally mandated economic blockade of
the island. This 40-year blockade has made it difficult for libraries to
develop as well as for people to survive with proper nourishment, medicines
and supplies. To combat their poverty and isolation, Cuban librarians have
worked with many professional associations, international agencies and
universities all over the world in order to acquire books and materials for
their libraries. Their primary manner of doing this is through gifts and
exchange. One of the main messages we received from librarians in Cuba is
that the librarians would appreciate donations of materials and supplies to
help them continue to build their collections. The librarians also seek to
establish relations with U.S. librarians and professional associations when
they are based on honesty, mutual respect and professional support.
As you may know, the issue of Cuban libraries is an extremely important one
to understand because of the misinformation and outright lies that have
been disseminated about the so-called "independent libraries" in Cuba.
At the end of the attached article, I have added a note about the so-called
"independent libraries" because a group of us visited two of those
libraries and talked extensively with their owners. We confirmed that the
"independent "libraries" have a purpose that is purely anti-Castro in
nature, in deed and in action. We confirmed that the owners are not
librarians. We confirmed that the owners are not independent. We confirmed
that the owners have political objectives and are using their "libraries"
to distribute anti-government propaganda. We confirmed that the owners
have ties to groups in Miami as well as to the U.S. government--both of
which have been involved in trying to overthrow the Cuba government.
The owners of these "independent libraries" regularly receive materials
directly from the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba (the official U.S.
government diplomatic representation to the country). And, the materials
are hand-delivered to the homes of the "librarians" complete with labels
with their names and addresses (and paid for with our tax dollars). Of
course, it is not news that the U.S. government, for decades, has sought to
overthrow the government of Cuba and has financed right-wing groups in the
U.S. and Cuba to promote the demise of the revolution and to kill Cuban
leaders (also paid for with our tax dollars). Nevertheless, it is
important to understand just who these "independent librarians" are, from
whom they receive financial and material support, and with whom they have
aligned themselves politically and for what purpose.
The real librarians in Cuba that we met are aware of the misinformation
that is being spread by the facetiously-named "Friends of Cuban Libraries"
group headed by Robert Kent and Jorge Sanguinetty. Mr. Sanguinetty,
especially, is well-known to the Cubans because he works for the
U.S.-funded and organized Radio Marti, a radio station set up by the U.S.
government that illegally sends broadcasts into Cuba on a daily basis
(needless to say, those broadcasts contain a point of view that is
anti-Cuban government). His connections to anti-Cuban activities are also
very well-known in Cuba.
Based on our reception and our very detailed discussions in Cuba, the real
librarians in Cuba know who their friends really are. Friends are
individuals that respect each other, that do not seek to destroy or
mislead, and that base their relationships on honesty, integrity and the
values of our profession. I invite U.S. librarians to continue to care
about and help Cuban libraries develop by contacting me to send donations,
materials and to spread the word! Thanks for your support.
For a version of this article with photos, please see the ALA website at
www.ala.org/irrt/ then chose publications, International Leads, June 2000
issue. The attachment is a duplicate of this article, but it has better
Report on Cuban Libraries
By Rhonda L. Neugebauer
In March of this year, seventeen U.S. librarians, scholars and educators
participated in an 11-day educational tour of libraries, archives,
universities, and cultural and historical sites in Cuba. Organized by
Rhonda Neugebauer, the delegation traveled to five cities and held
discussions with Cuban librarians and informational professionals about
their work, philosophy, values, their perceptions of their role in society
and their obligation to provide access and delivery of information to their
Issues of mutual interest to both groups were explored and various aspects
of U.S. and Cuban librarianship were examined. We were impressed by the
dedication and plain hard work of our Cuban counterparts, their ability to
provide a high level of service with limited resources, and their
commitment to the continued development of services and collections
throughout the country. Above all, we were impressed by the Cubans'
willingness to share their experiences and their desire to establish
relationships and strengthen exchange programs with United States libraries.
This article reports on the highlights of our tour, conveys some of our
impressions of this island nation and describes what we learned of Cuban
libraries and librarianship. It explains in some detail the Jose Marti
National Library, the National Technical Library School and the Cuban
Library Association (ASCUBI).
The similarities between Cuban and U.S. libraries are striking. Cuban
librarians carry out many of the same activities as do their North American
counterparts. They strive to build broad in-depth collections that reflect
their cultural and national identity and provide information and reference
services to researchers, other professionals and the public. They organize
and preserve materials in diverse formats, create tools that aid patrons in
the use of their collections and increasingly employ electronic
technologies to format, communicate and deliver information. They also
organize and participate in continuing education and degree programs,
conferences, instructional workshops and professional associations. They
lobby for increased funding and create national programs to facilitate
library services and distance education.
Cuban librarians are concerned about the effective use of their limited
resources and the development of appropriate technology and Internet tools.
Their ethics and values are reflected in their work to professionalize
training programs for librarians and to organize Cuban libraries in a
manner that provides for the equitable distribution of materials and
services to all parts of the country, especially to the historically
underserved rural areas.
However, Cuban librarians face formidable challenges. Cuba is a poor
country of about 11 million people, and it is small, about the size of the
state of Pennsylvania. The economy is heavily dependent upon agriculture
and tourism for the foreign exchange that is required to purchase
commodities from abroad, including such items as food, fuel, clothing and
books that are needed to supplement national production. For the past forty
years, the U.S. has imposed an economic embargo that prohibits trade with
Cuba. As a consequence, Cuba has existed in a kind of economic limbo
vis-a-vis the rest of the world. In the early 1990s, the economy was thrown
into disarray with the collapse of the socialist bloc and since then, Cuba
has had to find new trading partners and financing.
This dire economic environment has had a severe impact upon the nation.
Consequently, inadequate library budgets inhibit the development of
collections, services and preservation programs, severely restricting the
purchase of such basics as books and journal subscriptions. In the 1990s,
the economic problems were severe enough to reduce drastically most
publishing efforts throughout the country. Even today, while publishing has
partially recovered, press runs are still greatly reduced and fewer new
titles and journal issues are published.
Cuban libraries also face a chronic shortage of resources. The office
supplies that we take for granted-paper, ballpoint pens, paper clips and
computers-are hard to come by. The country faces regular problems with the
telephone system and international telecommunications that impede library
development. Despite these rather formidable obstacles, Cuban librarians
are determined to find solutions to these problems and they have made
progress toward their goals of collection building and improving services.
They continue to add materials to their collections through exchange and
donation and the development of new programs.
One innovative program has been the establishment of subscriber groups
wherein patrons contribute books or pay a small sum (10 pesos per year*) to
borrow new books. These groups, called Minerva Clubs, invite patron support
for and donations to public library popular fiction collections and are an
example of the way in which Cuban libraries have responded to increased
need for books in face of the decline in publishing. The Minerva Clubs,
started with donations of materials from Spain, serve large numbers of
people and help libraries buy multiple copies of high-demand titles. Also,
many libraries have developed a variety of children's programs with story
times, games days, theater presentations and art and music appreciation days.
The Jose Marti National Library (Biblioteca Nacional "Jose Marti"):
At the Jose Marti National Library, our delegation met with Director Dr.
Eliades Acosta Matos and about two dozen staff members who described the
library, its collections and services. The National Library, founded in
1901, holds approximately three million items, including books,
photographs, rare books, maps, music and materials in Braille. The
librarians oversee several active publishing projects, including the
Bibliografia Cubana and the Revista de la Biblioteca Nacional. In addition
to serving as the main repository for Cuban intellectual patrimony, the
National Library also provides services to the public including
circulation, reference and children's services and serves as the principal
organizer of a network of some 387 public libraries throughout the country.
Librarians at the National Library provide training, cataloging and
reference tools, program planning support, continuing education programs
and technological support to public libraries as well as to about 500
school libraries, 500 health center libraries and 1000 information centers
in the Havana area.
After introductions and descriptions of the library's services and
collections, Dr. Acosta brought up the issue of censorship and intellectual
freedom in Cuban libraries. He said, "The materials we have in our
libraries offer a variety of perspectives on the revolution. In our
collections, we want diversity. We want to add materials of all types and
perspectives. We have books by U.S. authors and books by Cubans that live
abroad. We would like more materials that are published abroad, but we just
do not have the funds to purchase them. That is why our exchange programs
with libraries around the world are so important. Through exchange (canje),
we add materials that we could not possibly purchase because of the cost.
Many titles from abroad are in our libraries because of the exchange
relations we have had with U.S. and other foreign libraries for decades. In
addition to attempting to preserve the national patrimony, our collection
development policies reflect the needs and desires of our people to be
exposed to all kinds of ideas and perspectives."
The National Library's plans for development include automation of their
main and departmental catalogs, a union catalog for the country's public
libraries, website development (photos taken of our meeting and an
accompanying story were mounted on the news section of the website within
an hour of our visit), Internet connections for public libraries, the
publication of bibliographies, exhibitions of cultural artifacts and books,
authors' presentations and the expansion of the new recreational reading
Minerva Clubs to all of the localities that request them.
The National Technical Library School (Escuela Nacional de Tecnicos de
Talks with library school administrators and teachers were an important
component of our trip. The enthusiasm of both the teachers and the
students was infectious, but the outdated teaching materials alarmed us and
spurred several of us to ask what we could do to help find more suitable
equipment and add more current library science titles. Although education
in Cuba is free, support for equipment, materials and teaching materials is
seriously deficient (a situation found almost everywhere in the country).
Several U.S. participants in the program decided, on the spot, to find ways
to help the library school by sending library science texts and other
professional materials. The school's head of reference, Cátedra Haya,
mentioned that the school would appreciate receiving any discarded copies
of American Libraries, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Dewey
Decimal Classification and Relative Index (they currently work with the
17th edition), encyclopedias, thesauri, or software manuals. Even English
language editions of reference works are useful because English is taught
at the school.
The National Technical Library School was founded in 1962 in the wake of
the Literacy Campaign. The mission of the school is to provide technical
and reference training for students who will work in public or regional
libraries as "técnicos medios" (library technicians/paraprofessionals).
Students come to attend the school from all regions of the country. They
receive free housing, meals and a stipend as well as free tuition. The
school currently offers a two and one-half year study program for nearly
300 students who work towards a library technician degree after finishing
their high school studies.
Fifty-five teachers are affiliated with the school (some teach part time
about their specialties). The school offers a curriculum that includes
courses on general library topics (reference, cataloging, collection
development, history of the book, the book trade and publishing,
bookbinding, etc.), yearly practicums in nearby libraries, visits to all
types of libraries, and, during the third year, a semester-long assignment
in an institution near the student's home town. Reports, exams, and a
"trabajo de titulación" (a work similar to a thesis) are also required.
On our tour of the school, we saw classrooms, workrooms where the students
compile projects and reports (some are similar to poster sessions), the
computer room (with four 386 machines, only one of which has a hard drive),
the typing room (typing is taught because most of the libraries in which
graduates will work do not have computers yet), the school's archives and
the library. Their future development plans are to obtain newer equipment
and teaching materials, to add Internet access, to automate the school
archives and library holdings and to establish more exchanges with
libraries abroad. (The director of the school was in Mexico at the time of
our visit, working to set up an exchange with Mexico to allow students to
The Cuban Library Association (Asociación Cubana de Bibliotecarios, ASCUBI):
Our delegation met with ASCUBI representatives in the National Technical
Library School where they had just set up new offices. Marta Terry,
President of ASCUBI, and nine members of the national Executive Board
welcomed us to Cuba and described the work of the association. ASCUBI has
been active in international organizations including IFLA and it was the
lead organizer of the 1994 IFLA conference held in Cuba. The national
association has about 1200 members and represents all library workers,
including both librarians and library technicians. There are chapters in
nine of the 14 provinces. Because of the low membership fees ASCUBI
maintains, there is little or no money to send librarians to international
conferences. Cuban library workers pay a membership fee of about one peso
per month for dues to ASCUBI (about US$.60 a year). ASCUBI representatives
expressed considerable interest in U.S. librarianship and ways in which
they might participate in ALA initiatives.
American Library Association Sister Libraries Initiative:
At most of the libraries, we presented the Spanish language brochure
prepared by ALA that details the new Sister Libraries Initiative. The
Initiative encourages U.S. and foreign libraries to form relationships that
promote the sharing of information and problem-solving techniques while
participants learn about other cultures and the global issues facing all
The host libraries were presented with mementos (bags, pens, and pins) from
the Libraries Build Communities campaign organized by ALA President Sarah
Long. The Cuban librarians were impressed with the program's goal of
matching libraries for mutual support and education. Several of them
promised to investigate the possibility of joining the ALA effort. The ALA
International Relations Office deserves special recognition for sending the
information and gifts to distribute to our Cuban hosts.
Note about "Independent Libraries":
Several members of our delegation visited two of the so-called "independent
libraries." These "libraries" operate out of private homes. One family
had a bookshelf of materials that seemed ordinary by Cuban standards; the
other family had no books. The families told us that they receive books and
other materials by mail and by hand delivery. The second family we visited
stated that materials (books, reprints of magazine articles and print
copies of website pages) were delivered to them regularly by persons from
the U.S. Interests Section; others were published and donated by the Cuban
American National Foundation (an anti-Castro organization in Miami). We
were told that the families received monthly deliveries of these materials
and some monies from contacts in Miami and Mexico. Both families told us
of their long histories of opposition to the Cuban government and the
usefulness of the materials delivered by the U.S. Interests Section
personnel in their efforts to encourage opposition to the Cuban government.
Based on this experience, it is my opinion that the information circulated
on innumerable library listservs, including several ALA listservs, about
these "independent" libraries, the "confiscation" of library materials and
the persecution of their owners is either totally false or greatly
exaggerated. The individuals that operate these "libraries" are not
independent and they are not librarians. They are uncredentialed and they
depend for materials upon donations from sources that oppose the Cuban
Based upon personal observation and interviews with the individuals in
charge of these "libraries," I have concluded that these individuals are
dissidents who distribute anti-government propaganda from their homes.
Some of these materials are provided by the U.S. government and by
individuals in Miami who pay for the materials and postage. The individuals
involved in these activities cannot be considered independent of interests
outside of Cuba.
*The official exchange rate in Cuban banks is 1 peso to the dollar. The
exchange rate outside of banks but still official is 20 pesos to the
dollar. So, the 10 pesos per year charge could be considered the
equivalent of $10 or $ .50, depending on where one might exchange the pesos.
Cuban libraries and institutions on the Internet:
1. José Martí National Library: http://www.lib.cult.cu. To see the photos
of our visit, go to http://www.lib.cult.cu/noticias/Marzo/IIencuentro.htm.
2. Instituto de Información Científica y Tecnólogica (Institute of
Scientific and Technological Information): http://www.idict.cu
3. Academia de Ciencias (Academy of Sciences):
4. Association of Cuban Librarianship (ASCUBI): President, Marta Terry
5. Escuela Nacional de Técnicos de Biblioteca (National Technical Library
School, Vice Director Moraima D. Lorigados Hernandez), Calle 34, no. 513
entre Quinta y Septima Avenidas, Municipio Playa, Ciudad de la Habana,
Cuba. Telephone: 22-4502 or 29-4461
6. University of Havana Library: http://www.uh.cu/biblioteca/Web_page_BC.htm.
7. Biblioteca Provincial Ruben Martinez Villena (Public Library): Obispo
59, entre Oficio y Baratillo, Habana, Cuba; bpvillena[at]binanet.lib.cult.cu
8. Casa de las Americas: http://www.cult.cu/casa/. Director, Ernesto
9. Cuba Museum Guide: http://www.cubaweb.cu/museos/
10. Instituto Cubano del Libro (Cuban Book Institute):
11. List of public libraries (partial list):
12. Sociedad Cubana de Ciencias de la Informacion (Cuban Society of
Information Science): http://www.idict.cu/socict/socict.htm
13. Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos (Cuban Institute of
Friendship with People): http://www2.ceniai.inf.cu//ICAP/; icap[at]ceniai.inf.cu
To help Cuban libraries:
To help any of the institutions mentioned above, contact Rhonda L.
Neugebauer, Wichita State University, 1845 Fairmount, Box 68, Wichita, KS
67260-0068; (316) 978-5079 or (316) 651-5744. neugebau[at]twsuvm.uc.twsu.edu
Rhonda L. Neugebauer
Reference Librarian and Subject Specialist
Wichita State University Libraries
President, Wichita Area Library Association
Publisher: E-resources for Latin American Studies
Wichita State University Libraries
Wichita, KS 67260
(316) 978-5079 (work)
or rhonda[at]southwind.net (preferred)
2. Larry Oberg's report from the March, 2000 trip
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000 18:21:34 -0700
From: Larry Oberg <loberg[at]WILLAMETTE.EDU>
Subject: Robert Kent and Friends of Cuban Libraries (fwd)
To: Charles Harmon, chair, and members of the ALA Committee on
From: Larry R. Oberg, University Librarian, Willamette University, Salem,
Re: Robert Kent and Friends of Cuban Libraries.
Dear Charles and Committee members:
On Monday, 3 April of this year, I returned from a two-week research trip
to Cuba. The trip was organized and conducted by Rhonda Neugebauer of
Witchita State and included some fourteen other librarians from around the
country. During our stay, we visited many libraries and spoke with
countless librarians and support staff. Our stay included visits to the
Biblioteca National "Jose Marti;" the Biblioteca Publica Ruben Martinez
Villena in Havana; the Biblioteca Provincial "Elvira Cape" in Santiago de
Cuba; the Biblioteca Central "Ruben Martinez Villena" of the University of
Havana; and public libraries in Matanzas, Cardinas and Varadero. We also
visited the Instituto de Historia de Cuba; The Archivo General de la Isla
de Cuba; the Escuela Nacional de Tecnicos de Bibliotecas in Havana;
several elementary and secondary school libraries; and the Latin America
literary incubator and publishing house, Casa de las Americas.
In Santiago de Cuba, a few of our group also visited two of what Mr.
Robert Kent of the Friends of Cuban Libraries calls "independent"
libraries. We spoke at length with the people who are responsible for
these "libraries." Please allow me to summarize a few of the conclusions I
have reached about Cuban libraries in general and about the "independent"
libraries that Mr. Kent has championed in innumerable postings on
innumerable library listservs. Please understand that these are my
personal conclusions and are not intended to represent the perceptions of
other members of the group.
1. CUBAN LIBRARIES
- The materials budgets of Cuban libraries are dramatically
underfunded. But, libraries are not alone in this regard. The financial
crisis that this island nation has undergone since the collapse of the
Soviet bloc (something the Cubans refer to as the "special period") has
had a severe impact on book publishing, industry, construction and many
other areas of the economy, including of course, living standards.
- The Cuban librarians that I met were, with a few exceptions,
highly professional, talented and capable. They are committed to
professional excellence and are clearly abreast of current trends in
North American and European librarianship.
- The Jose Marti National Library and the major provincial and
city libraries are busily preparing for automation. The National Library's
systems staff has developed a plan for a national union catalog and
network that only awaits funding for implementation. (A nationwide science
and research network is also being created by the National Institute of
Science and Technology (Havana), which we also visited.)
- Most of the libraries that we visited have clear collection
development policies and standards. The national library collects
materials on all topics and does not limit its collections to materials
that support the ideology of the Cuban government. They actively solicit,
for example, copies of materials published by dissident Cuban authors who
reside abroad. At the same time, they do not necessarily add all of the
vehemently anti-Fidel materials published by dissident Cubans who reside
in Miami, just as North American libraries do not actively seek out and
buy all of the anti-gay and lesbian tracts published in Colorado Springs
and other centers of right-wing Christian publishing.
- Cuban librarians take their outreach obligations seriously and
have invested heavily in bookmobiles and branch libraries in isolated
rural locations. They are particularly committed to making libraries
services available to rural Cuban children.
- School libraries are ubiquitous in Cuba. Almost all elementary
and secondary schools have libraries and librarians. (We might compare
this to the situation in the United States.) We spoke at length with a
group of second graders in a Matanzas elementary school who asked bright
and intelligent questions of us. They were reading Jose Marti's The Red
THE "INDEPENDENT" CUBAN LIBRARIES
Some of our group visited two "independent" libraries. Both of these were
listed, with addresses, in one of Robert Kent's numerous postings on
library listservs. The following bulleted items represent my personal
understanding of what we found:
- The first "independent" library we visited was in Santiago de
Cuba. It was located in private home and consisted of two bookcases filled
with books, one in the living room, another in a back bedroom. I would
estimate that this collection might have included 200 volumes. The woman
who tended the collection spoke freely and openly with us about herself
and her "library." She insisted that the main objective of the library was
to make materials available to children, but could produce no children's
books. Many of the books in the "collection" were published in Cuba,
although perhaps the bulk were published in the United States, Mexico,
Spain and other countries. She showed us a copy of a single issue of the
Cuban periodical Educacion as an example of how she wishes to make books
available to students. She told us that she was considering removing the
back cover of the issue, however, because it includes a quote from Fidel
Castro. She told us that most of her relatives live in Havana and that she
regularly records and broadcasts anti-Cuban government statements on Radio
Marti and Radio Mambi, both of which beam anti-Cuban government
programming to Cuba from the United States.
- The second "independent" library that we visited was also in
Santiago de Cuba. This "library" had no books or materials at all. The
family that lived in the apartment said that they had distributed all of
the materials they had to other sympathetic individuals in preparation for
leaving for Miami. They have received exit visas from the U. S. government
and expect to depart Cuba in May. They explained that they had never
collected books per se, but rather had relied upon deliveries of
pamphlets, reprints of articles and other materials directly from the U.
S. Interest Section in Havana. These materials, they noted, were
hand-delivered by Americans who came to their home in an automobile. They
thought that these materials were better than books because they not only
supported their political beliefs and also could be used to enlighten
others. They agreed that these materials were useful in their efforts to
bring others to their anti-government position and to recruit others to
the anti-Castro movement.
- Marta Terry, the president of the Cuban Library Association, and
other Cuban librarians pointed out to us that they have tried many times
to contact and work with these "librarians." The independent "librarians"
with whom we spoke have never approached the established libraries because
the vaguely feel that they would be rebuffed.
- Mr. Kent continually insists that the "independent librarians"
of Cuba are our peers and colleagues. In neither of the two cases that I
cite above do the principals have degrees or training in librarianship,
nor do they even appear to be what we might call "book-oriented" people.
They are not librarians by any definition that we would understand.
- Neither of the two "independent" libraries that I visited are
marked or signed in any way as libraries. One had no collection whatsoever
and the other had a modest collection of materials of a size that one
might expect to find in any Cuban home. The one collection that I saw was
not cataloged or even organized by subject. There was no circulation
apparatus and this collection had no materials to support its primary
collecting goal, children's literature.
- The independent "librarians" that I met are all self-professed
political dissidents, dedicated to the overthrow of the Cuban government.
(They spoke with us openly and apparently without fear of reprisal about
their anti-government activities.) They are closely allied with the U. S.
government, the U. S. Interest Section in Cuba and with Cuban dissidents
in Miami and Mexico. Several had been arrested by the Cuban authorities,
but they emphasized that these arrests had nothing to do with their
"independent" library activities. The arrests, in all cases, were for
subversive and clandestine activities carried out to undermine the Cuban
government. It is my distinct impression that these libraries are, on the
one hand, a public face and a recruiting tool for a dissident movement
within Cuba and, on the other, a means of "jumping the queue" to get an
immigration visa to the United States.
MR. ROBERT KENT
Upon my return I found that I had received a copy of a letter, dated 15
March, from Mr. Robert Kent to Charles Harmon and the members of the ALA
Committee on Professional Ethics. In his letter to you, Mr. Kent presents
censorship of Cuban library collections and suppression of the
"independent" libraries as an established fact. With this firmly
established, he anticipates duplicity on the part of Ms. Neugebauer and,
by extension, those who accompanied her. He cites the stated objective of
the group, "to hold discussions between U. S. and Cuban librarians on key
aspects of librarianship such as philosophy, values, ethics and
professional practices," as evidence that she "apparently has no intention
of supporting intellectual freedom during the library program she will be
conducting in Cuba." He concludes by suggesting that her activities in
this area "may be subject to an inquiry by the ALA Committee on
I accompanied Ms. Neugebauer on all of the visits that the group made in
Cuba and I wish to make the following comments:
- In all encounters with Cuban librarians, and indeed with Cuban
citizens, Ms. Neugebauer and the other members of the group conducted
themselves at the highest professional level; a level that does honor to
our profession and the American Library Association.
- In all of our meetings with Cuban librarians, Ms. Neugebauer and
other members of the group asked penetrating questions about government
interference in collection development, the independence of Cuban
librarians, and other questions that probed their philosophy, values,
ethics and professional practices.
- I know that Ms. Neugebauer and the other members of our research
group are deeply committed to intellectual freedom and oppose censorship
in all its forms.
It is therefore deeply disturbing to me to be accused, in advance of the
fact, of dissimilation and derelection of professional standards. For
myself, I believe that many of you know that my name, my publications, and
my professional activities have always strongly supported intellectual
freedom and the autonomy of librarians in the development of their
collections. My record in this area will withstand the deepest scrutiny.
It seems to me that Mr. Kent's charges against Ms. Neugebauer should be
dismissed out of hand. His activities and his charges against Cuban
librarians are unproven and, certainly, conflict with what I found in long
and probing conversations with these very librarians. Mr. Kent's rhetoric
is inflamed and his charges reflect more accurately his politics than they
do the practice of Cuban librarians.
Finally, I want to state that I know Ms. Neugebauer to be a honorable and
principled librarian, someone who is committed not only to high
professional standards but who is also dedicated to the truth wherever it
may lead. Mr. Kent's charges are outrageous and unfounded and I request
that you and the members of the committee dismiss them out-of-hand.
Larry R. Oberg
Mark O. Hatfield Library
L I B R A R Y J U I C E
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