A very interesting interview with Gisela Delgado Sablón, head of the independent library project in Cuba, was published in La Nueva Cuba
and in English translation (by Robert Kent) at the 4freadom
website. Delgado says that of the 75 dissidents tried in the 2003 Cuba trials, 16 were librarians. There were 103 independent libraries at the time of the trials, but afterwards, she says:
"..those of us who remained free were threatened with long prison terms if we didn't cease our work as promoters of culture. Because of all the threats and book confiscations, many of our libraries were almost empty; this library [the Dulce Maria Loynaz Library], the principal one, was almost empty, 1000 books were confiscated, not counting magazines and newspapers."
She says, however, that the libraries have been able to replenish their collections, thanks to the support of international non-government organizations, particularly from Sweden, Spain, France, Holland, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and the United States. She says the libraries have "expanded, the groups of readers in rural areas have increased, something we had not managed to do before [the 2003 crackdown.] We work for all segments of Cuban society, without any kind of exclusions."
She also noted the "heroic" speech given by writer Cesar López at this year's Havana book fair, in which he praised the writings of once banned, and now deceased, writers Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Heberto Padilla, Reinaldo Arenas, Severo Sarduy, Gastón Baquero and Jesús Díaz, at an event at which Raul Castro was present.
She estimated over 240,000 patrons have visited independent libraries this year, and said there are many others who do not visit these libraries, but are involved with them through their participation in readers' groups, who make use of about 60-80 books per group.
She thanked the international community, "which needs to support a country where information is shut out and where people do not have access to the Internet, where a monopoly of information exists, where the Cuban government tells people what they should read every day, and tells them how they should interpret what they read."