- Defend Cuban and US Libraries
- Tarnel Abbott
- January 7, 2004
- The following letter was written by Tarnel Abbott, Librarian. Views
expressed in this letter do not necessarily reflect the views of IRTF,
SRRT, or ALA.
- I am a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a degree
of Master of Library and Information Science. I have been a public librarian
for 18 years, an ALA (American Library Association) member for most of
- In February 2003 I went on a tour of libraries in Cuba with a group
of U.S. and Canadian teachers and librarians. We visted local/regional
(provincial)/special/ academic libraries and the National library. We toured
the literacy museum, we visited an independent publisher of handmade books,
we attended the professional librarian conference and the Havana Book Fair.
In my experience, the Cuban Libraries are amazingingly intact. The libraries,
the librarians and the books are respected, and more: treasured. The Cuban
libraries are material poor (no surprise given the embargo) but strong
on open hours, outreach and programming. They welcome donations.
- I have spent much more time in Mexico in my life than I have in Cuba.
It is much harder to find a public library in Mexico than it is in Cuba.
I have long been a fan of Nat Hentoff, who has been a champion for libraries
for many years, and recently a strong and articulate spokesman against
the USA P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act , but I wonder, where he is getting his information
about Cuban Libraries from? Has he ever actually visited a Cuban Library?
- Has he visited my library? My library has recently joined the third
world. Until recently, we have had a great book budget and open hours,
this is partly why I came to work here. The library was respected. Now,
our hours and budgets have been so gutted that after 13 years of fulltime
employment with the City of Richmond (CA) I think I might be laid off,
and my social sciences book budget has gone overnight from $8,000 per year
- In an era when all departments which don't generate money will be shut
down as the city "right-sizes" will Nat Hentoff come to my defense?
And who will be left to maintain those libraries he loves to defend, who
will be there to buy his books? Who will know what the BORDC [Bill of Rights
Defense Committee: http://www.bordc.org/]
is? The death of the library is the death of a culture, the death of democracy.
When the public is denied reasonable access to public documents, to history,
technical and practical knowledge...to literature, culture ...in the richest
nation in the history and the world--who will defend us?
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