Cuban library benefits from Vermillion support The Vermillion Public Library Board of Trustees took a stand for intellectual freedom on Nov. 18 when it voted to sponsor the Dulce Maria Loynaz Library in Havana, Cuba.
Cuba's Dulce Maria Loynaz Library, an unofficial institution free of government control, is one of approximately 250 independent libraries founded since 1998 to challenge restrictions on freedom of information. The goal of Cuba's independent library movement is to offer public access to uncensored books reflecting all points of view.
In March, 2003, many of the independent libraries in Cuba were raided by the State Security police, resulting in lengthy prison terms for more than a dozen librarians.� All of those jailed have been recognized as "prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty International, which is calling for their immediate release.�
The Dulce Maria Loynaz Library was one of the institutions singled out during the 2003 crackdown. The director, Gisela Delgado, was not detained during the raid on her library, but her husband, Hector Palacios, was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison. During the raid, most of the Loynaz Library's books were confiscated by the police.�The Cuban courts have ordered the burning of many of the books seized from the independent librarians.
"Cuba's independent librarians have been targeted for repression because of their principled challenge to censorship," said Jon Flanagin, president of the Vermillion library trustees.�"We felt we had a moral obligation to offer our support."�
Flanagin emphasized that the library trustees' action will be funded solely by private donations and at no cost to the Vermillion library or to the city.�� The first two volumes shipped to Cuba were a collection of Mark Twain and the first of the Harry Potter series, both in Spanish.
"A hundred years ago the Vermillion library started out with 300 volumes, about the same number of books as the Dulce Maria Loynaz library had before it was raided," said Mark Wetmore, vice president of the trustees.�"But Vermillion's library grew rapidly from that beginning, in a society that nurtured free access to all types of information.� We hope that our sponsorship of an independent Cuban library will, in some small way, help that process there, as well as encourage other American libraries to offer similar support."
With this action, Vermillion joins the French cities of Paris and Strasbourg, which have also formally adopted a number of Cuba's independent libraries.�The Cuban library is the second with which Vermillion has established a special relationship; in 1989, it adopted the library in its sister city, Ratingen, Germany.�