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LOTR Librarian

This blog is for lovers of LOTR wishing to find information about Tolkien, discuss Tolkien, or for librarians who happen to love Tolkien's books. (No movie discussion here, please.) It is also for general librarianship rants based on experiences or beliefs of the LOTR Librarian. Attention Spammers: Your comments will be deleted. Don't waste your time here. Go elsewhere. English-only comments please. If you want to comment in Mandarin, German, Spanish, etc; frequent blogs in those languages.


"Oyarsa" for those who don't know, is the name of an archangel (or "god" with a little 'g') in C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy. I liked the character, so I stole the name. Who am I? I am a library science student in Illinois who has a variety of interests--too many to list! I have worked in libraries for five years and counting.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Robert Kent on the ALA/Cuban Libraries controversy.

Speaking of Friends of Cuban Libraries, I recieved the following from their Director Robert Kent on the ongoing battle between the Friends of Cuban Libraries and the leaders of the ALA:

Dear Bloggers:
Here are three updates on the intensifying dispute over control of key ALA offices and committees by the extremist faction. Thanks for your feedback, and PLEASE keep sending me the addresses of other sympathetic bloggers. We need to get word out of the revolt brewing within the ALA! - Robert Kent, Friends of Cuban Libraries.


1. Response by Robert Kent to ALA prez Gorman's letter condemning Andrei Codrescu and the Friends as "foaming right-wingers."

2. Effort by Mark Rosenzweig to stifle dissent by imposing the Marxist doctrine of "democratic centralism" on the "AL Direct" publication. The extremists are furious because an AL Direct reader poll indicated (at last count) that 75% (yes, SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT) of respondents want the ALA to condemn the persecution of Cuba's independent librarians.

3. Text of a superb article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the ALA uproar caused by Andrei Codrescu's speech.


Feb. 8, 2006

Dear Mr. Gorman:

Thank you for your letter of January 27 regarding The Friends of Cuban Libraries' report on Andrei Codrescu's speech at the ALA conference in San Antonio. Your response to our numerous attempts to communicate, belated as it is, offers added proof that the effort by a small extremist faction within the ALA to deceive, cover up and lie about the systematic persecution of Cuba's independent librarians, and the burning of their library collections, is finally unraveling. Your letter is an indirect acknowledgement that the ALA is beginning to repair and reclaim its proud heritage as an impartial defender of intellectual freedom as a universal human right.

Your "report..." is entirely typical of your many utterances in the past and of the behavior of your friend Mr. Codrescu. That is, it is tendentious, riddled with inaccuracies, defamatory, and motivated by the kind of foaming right wingery that is, alas, all too common in political discourse these days.
If Andrei Codrescu and The Friends of Cuban Libraries have engaged in defamation, then a lawsuit is called for. Although I am not a lawyer, to a layperson telling the truth would seem to be poor grounds for a successful defamation lawsuit.

"Every burned book enlightens the world," wrote Emerson, and thanks to the intervention of "foaming right-wingers" such as Andrei Codrescu, Nat Hentoff and Ray Bradbury, at long last the thousands of Cuban library books seized or burned by Castro's secret police are beginning to enlighten the general public, including the well-meaning but inattentive majority on the governing ALA Council who until recently have accepted the assurances of "experts" on extremist-dominated ALA committees that nothing of interest is happening in Cuba. We all know what the public would have thought of fluent German-speaking "researchers" who visited Berlin in the 1930's and proclaimed that they could find no evidence of repression or censorship in Nazi Germany. Did you really believe, Mr. Gorman, that the public would not catch on to the ALA's Spanish-speaking "researchers" who visit Havana and try, with a straight face, to make similar claims about the Communist regime in Cuba?

And, in addition to Andrei Codrescu, Nat Hentoff and Ray Bradbury, let's not forget other "foaming right-wingers" such as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Cornel West and Howard Zinn who have also spoken out against the repression of Cuban dissidents, including the independent librarians now serving life sentences for daring to open uncensored libraries in an historic challenge to a totalitarian regime. All of the librarians convicted after Castro's 2003 crackdown have been adopted as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International and other renowned organizations, which is just another of the inconvenient facts systematically ignored or covered up by extremist-dominated ALA committees in their fraudulent "investigations" of Cuba.

I am old-fashioned enough to think that it is both rude and devious to accept an invitation to speak on a topic and use the opportunity to attack your host (ALA).
Is it really rude to inform one's host that his/her house is on fire? On the contrary: ignoring, lying about and covering up the truth about the rising flames in a host's house would be the true outrage. Nor is it inappropriate to inform ALA members, including the well-meaning but inattentive majority on the governing ALA Council, that they have been deceived by a small, scheming faction of extremists who are trying to destroy the ethical basis of the ALA.

I have not "repeatedly dodged" questions about Cuba. I have not chosen to > answer your fulminations but, then, I would have no time for my many other duties if I were to engage in correspondence with every half-wit and crackpot who communicates with me.
This passage in your letter requires an explanation for the uninformed reader. In October 2005 the Friends of Cuban Libraries issued an emergency report about Victor Rolando Arroyo, a jailed Cuban reporter and independent librarian who was near death due to a hunger strike called to protest prison conditions. Victor, the director of the Reyes Magos Library in western Cuba, was arrested in March 2003 and the 6,000 volumes in the Reyes Magos Library were confiscated by the secret police. After a one-day trial, Victor Rolando Arroyo was sentenced to a 20-year prison term. When his life was in danger because of a hunger strike, we made a public appeal to you, Mr. Gorman, hoping that you would compassionately agree to help save the life of a fellow human being, regardless of his beliefs, real of perceived. Sadly, our hopes were misplaced, as you repeatedly refused to respond to our letters or to make any effort whatsoever to save Victor's life. Fortunately, Victor's life was saved thanks to the intervention of several human rights organizations. Did you act in this way because Victor, too, should be scorned as a "foaming right-winger?" One of the charges made against Victor during his one-day trial was that he had been awarded the Hellman-Hammett Prize, issued by Human Rights Watch to honor victims of repression. The award is named for Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett, two more "foaming right-wingers" harassed for their beliefs during the McCarthy era in the U.S.

Mr. Codrescu seems to share your curious delusion that everyone who lends another person a book is a "librarian." Few others do.
Mr. Gorman, efforts to ignore the facts by taking refuge in semantic quibbling are beginning to fail. It is irrelevant whether a library worker has a library degree or not, as shown by the ALA's championing of Eliades Acosta, the despicable director of Havana's National Library who serves as Castro's spokesperson for the persecution of the independent librarians. Mr. Acosta does not have a library degree, just as many ALA members and the U.S. Librarian of Congress also lack a library degree. It can never be a crime to oppose censorship or to open a library, with or without a university degree, no matter what the ALA's extremist minority may claim to the contrary. The same goes for nonsensical claims that Cuba's independent libraries are somehow not real libraries, even though the ALA's own mandate defends the legitimacy of "all libraries." Is there some aspect of the phrase "all libraries," Mr. Gorman, which is ambiguous? And just as the ALA extremists claim, or pretend to claim, that a library worker is not a library worker and a library is not a library, will they also dare to claim that a book is not a book, just because it is held by an independent library in Cuba? Or can we safely scorn and disregard the existence of a pile of ashes that used to be a book, as has been the fate of thousands of library books seized by the secret police in Cuba?

In summary, Mr. Gorman, the long "reign of error" enjoyed by the ALA's extremist minority is beginning to collapse. In growing numbers, ALA members realize that they have been deceived. We are confident that the majority of well-meaning ALA Council members will now begin to pay overdue attention to this important subject and, acting in a principled and impartial manner, restore the ALA's ethical basis by supporting Cuba's brave independent librarians and their historic defense of intellectual freedom. We also hope that you, after re-assessing the facts, will disavow the elaborate lies and cover ups of the extremists by siding with the vast majority of ALA members who support truth and justice.


Robert Kent

Co-chair, The Friends of Cuban Libraries



2. Mark Rosenzweig is trying to impose the Marxist doctrine of "democratic centralism" on the ALA Council, whereby rank-and-file members are forbidden to disagree with the Central Committee's established policies, or even (as in the case of reader polls in AL Direct) to even have an avenue for expressing disagreement.) At last report, Michael Gorman had sent a memo to AL Direct editor Leonard Kniffel "suggesting," in accordance with Rosenzweig's demands, that polling be dropped from AL Direct:

-----Original Message----- From: owner-alacoun@ala.org [mailto:owner-alacoun@ala.org] On Behalf Of MCR
Sent: Sunday, February 05, 2006 12:58 PM
To: ALA Council List
Cc: srrtac-l@ala.org; PLGNET-L@listproc.sjsu.edu
Subject: [ALACOUN:17056] RE: On AL Direct and "polling"
[Message posted by Rosenzweig:] ...For Council to "poll" the members on an issue, any issue, there would have to be a public meeting, a motion, a debate, a vote, probably a referral to BARC, and pro-and-con would have to have a chance to present positions publicly...

No, we don't "own" the right: we scarcely HAVE the right (yes we have the possible option, subject to all the just mentioned constraints), never mind a means to do it on a regular basis.

Why should the editors of AL, outside of all democratic governance and using their privileged direct access to the membership, be allowed to create -- without Council's approval --apparently without being enjoined either to do so by the Executive Board -- a standing mechanism whereby they can decide what to poll about, how to do it, how to frame policy issues, when to take phony "unscientific" and meaningless (though influential) polls, when/where/how to publicize the results ?

American Library's editor in present practice already has a "super-voice" on policy; the editor has direct and immediate access to tens of thousands of members AND the authority (or appearance of authority) of official publication, makes it more influential than virtually ANY ALA governance body, committee, elected individual, personal member (including the President ) or other staff (including the ED). The new AL Direct is an invitation to abuse of that, and the fact that the first issue had that absurd "poll" on Cuba (it's not that it's Cuba that irks me, it could be ANY policy they chose to call into question) only made it clear that there is an intention to do just that . It should give us on Council pause.

Mark Rosenzweig

ALA Councilor at large


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