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Romanian Author Spanks Librarians Over Cuba
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 By: Juan Paxety
Andrei Codrescu supports Cuban librarians
The American Library Association held its mid-winter meeting in San Antonio and members had their ears burned by a Romanian author they had invited as a guest speaker. The Library Journal reports Andrei Codrescu was invited to speak as part of the ALA President's program entitled "The Future of Our Profession: Educating Tomorrow's Librarians." What Codrescu had to say was unexpected - but the reaction of President Michael Gorman was typical.
Then Condrescu (sic) addressed freedom of expression, citing his youth in Communist Romania, where "my good luck was to meet Dr. Martin, a retired professor, who had all the poets who were blacklisted." Because of ALA's record in opposing excesses in the USA PATRIOT ACT, Codrescu said he felt "great dismay" that the organization "has taken no action to condemn the imprisonment of librarians," the banning of books, and repression in Cuba. He mentioned that other international figures, including U.S. leftists like Noam Chomsky, have joined in such condemnation. "Cuba today is the Romania of my growing up," he said. Codrescu's speech earned strong, if not unanimous applause, which suggests that the audience, at least, may have a less measured approach toward the Cuba issue than the ALA Council. Gorman did not immediately respond, first offering his prepared remarks raising questions about the definition of the profession and how ALA might have a greater impact on LIS curricula. He said he thought that Cuba's policies "are reprehensible," but contrasted that posture with "getting involved in a political to-and-fro about the status of people who claim to be librarians... that grows up around the exile community, the Republican Party, Cuba, and the Cuban government." He added that the imprisoned Cubans "should never have been in prison." ("I was mugged," Gorman said afterward. "He did not deliver the speech he told us ten days earlier that he would deliver." ) Codresco (sic) said he didn't see why the Cubans should be termed "so-called librarians."
Gorman said there was a dispute about whether the activity of lending books "is being a librarian" and that "there is some dispute about the funding of these people who claim to set up libraries." Gorman also added that ALA's Council had "condemned the imprisonment" of the Cubans [actually, the phrase was "deep concern"], and that the stance had been misrepresented by columnist Nat Hentoff and Robert Kent of Friends of Cuban Libraries. Codrescu intoned, "The man who lent us books was a librarian, and he was our librarian. I think ALA should make a stronger point in solidarity with these disseminators of books."
It's always interesting to hear the debates between someone who actually lived under communism and the American pink pseudo-intellectuals.