Lithuanian librarians apologize for being duped by Robert Kent over Cuba
This may be old news to some, but it hasn’t gotten a lot of play.
At IFLA, the Lithuanian and Latvian delegations were planning to present a resolution condemning Cuba for imprisoning dissident “independent librarians.” Robert Kent & Co. floated news of this in advance and pressured ALA Council to instruct ALA’s IFLA delegate to support this resolution. (The resolution did not come up for a vote, but ALA’s delegate had made it clear that he would not support it.)
Here is what Lithuania’s delegation wrote to ASCUBI President Margarita Bellas:
“We are terribly sorry for this missunderstanding. Hope you do understand that our intentions were to help you. We had no idea the Mr. Robert Kent is acting without your knowledge.”
Lithuania’s delegation withdrew their resolution, apologizing for having been misled by Robert Kent.
Knowledge of this situation is generally shallow and prejudiced.
Here is the Lithuanian delegate’s letter to Hungarian colleagues:
Fw: Resolution on Cuba for the IFLA
De: “Emilija Banionyte”
Fecha: Tue, 8 Aug 2006 11:36:52 +0300
CC: “Vida Garunkstyte”
, , “LBD” ,
Dear Hungarian colleagues,
It is very strange you got our resolution – we did not send it to anybody, but IFLA. Did you also get the withdrawal of the resolution?
Let me explain the whole situation.
Last year during the IFLA conference in Oslo we were approached by American journalist Robert Kent. He wanted us to support his initiative to sign the resolution to free Cuban librarians that had no freedom, some of them were even imprisoned. He had the draft text of the resolution. But we did not sign it in Oslo, as we had to consult our library community. After we returned back after IFLA Mr. Robert Kent wanted to know immediately what our library community thinks and started bombarding us with letters. What we did not do – and this was our greatest mistake – we did not consult Cuban librarians themselves. Our library community after some discussions supported the resolution and we signed it and sent to IFLA headquarters. The text was written by Mr. Robert Kent – we only signed it. Find attached.
After a coulpe of months we were approached by the President of the Association of Cuban Librarians Ms Margarita Bellas. Her letter simply shocked us (find attached). We started corresponding with her and found out that lots of things Mr. Robert Kent claimed were not true. While Mr. Robert Kent claims Ms Margarita Bellas is lying, as she is acting under the influence of the revolutionary regime and she has to lie. To prove this Mr. Robert Kent started the whole compain – I am receiving various letters from various people. Your letter is one of his compaingn – now he is acting with the hands of some other “former soviet” librarians currently living in the “free” US.
All this seems rather strange.
Our sincere intension was to help Cuban librarians, therefore we signed the resolution. The initaitive was not ours, but Mr. Robert Kent’s. As we found out, that Cubans themselves do not need this help and this is a political game, we decided to withdraw our resolution and we did it. IFLA is informed about it via e-mail and fax.
We are very sory about all this mess. Somebody started some political game with our hands. Because of lack of experience and because of honest approach to our collegues we did believe and got involved into it. In the future we will be much more careful about such situations.
We have got invitation from Cuban colleagues to come and visit their country and see how things are there, how libraries and librarians are working. We are going to meet them at IFLA in Seoul and talk in person.
I hope I managed to explain the whole situation in short. Should you have more questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
Lithuanian Librarians’ Association, Vice-President
Vilnius Pedagogical University, Library Director
Studentu 39, LT- 01806 Vilnius, Lithuania
tel./faks. +370 5 2750340; mobile +370 698 88192
This letter and a larger thread is published in Librinsula.
How many public statements in support of Cuba’s “independent librarians” are similar to Lithuanian librarians initial information-poor decision? How many public statements in support of Kent’s cause, by Left intellectuals and others, are based on similarly quick decisions, in the absence of independent research? I hope that some of the Left intellectuals so frequently cited by activists who agree with them on scarcely anything else will follow Lithuania’s lead and actually talk to Cuba’s librarians about the situation. Opposition to the Cuban government in this situation is too convenient and low-cost to resist for many Leftists under pressure, but the real facts demand otherwise.