Decision taken following complaints received that books not 'pro-family'
THE National Library Board (NLB) has pulled at least three children's books off its shelves after it received complaints the books were not "pro-family".
This came to light after a Facebook user, Mr Teo Kai Loon, posted a note in an open Facebook group yesterday claiming NLB had removed two of the three books following his complaint.
The first book, And Tango Makes Three, features two male penguins that behave as though they are a couple, while the second book on adoption features two female partners adopting a baby from China.
But a source told The Straits Times that two months earlier, the board had pulled out another children's title, Who's In My Family?
All About Our Families by Robie H. Harris, after it received e-mails from people objecting to it.
The book follows a family's outing to a zoo, and includes references to single parents and same-sex couples.
Mr Teo had posted his note in a group named "We are against Pinkdot in Singapore", called on fellow members to "scrutinise" the library's catalogue and not allow such children's books to "go under the radar".
"You can always e-mail NLB for that, the action is swift, all within two days. Remember, the onus is on us."
In the same note, he also included an e-mail he had received from NLB assistant chief executive Tay Ai Cheng, who said the two books have been removed following his feedback.
She also said NLB takes a "strong pro-family stand" when selecting books for children.
"We have a collection of more than five million books.
While we try to sieve through the contents and exercise our best judgment, it is an arduous task to ensure complete adherence of details in the books to our pro-family stand," she said.
"(But) when library visitors like yourself highlight to us any conflicting content within books, we review such books thoroughly and withdraw them from circulation."
Mr Teo did not respond to The Straits Times' queries.
He removed the post yesterday evening after it was shared online and attracted criticisms.
When asked, the library board confirmed that it had removed all three children's titles and reiterated that it takes a "pro-family and cautious approach" in identifying titles for young readers.
It added that it continually reviews its children's collection and is "sensitive" to parents' feedback.
But NLB did not say why the children's titles were selected in the first place.
It also did not say how it decides to remove certain titles from its collection.
This incident has prompted some people to write in to NLB to seek explanation.
They include civil society activist Vincent Wijeysingha, who called this episode a "really serious matter of public censorship".
In his letter to the library board, which the former opposition politician reproduced on his Facebook page, he called the National Library "the nation's principal knowledge repository".
"Your decision to withdraw two books on limited feedback without wider consultation is an extremely worrying development given your mandate to cater to all Singaporeans," he said.
Ms Melissa Tsang, 22, who works in content marketing in a start-up, wrote to NLB: "It's only fair that parents decide for their children what they can or cannot read.
"The library matters because we're talking about a free access public educational resource here," she said to The Straits Times.
About the books
AND TANGO MAKES THREE
Based on the true story of two male chinstrap penguins, named Roy and Silo. It tells of how the pair, who live in Manhattan's Central Park Zoo, built a nest like those of other mating penguins but could not lay an egg.
A zookeeper gave the pair an egg, that needed caring for, from another penguin couple.
They then took turns sitting on the egg to keep it warm until it hatched. The chick was named Tango.
THE WHITE SWAN EXPRESS: A STORY ABOUT ADOPTION
It tells the story of people who travel to China to pick up the children they have adopted.
The adoptive parents comprise two married couples from Miami and Toronto, a single mother from Minnesota, and a lesbian couple from Vashon Island near Seattle, who have adopted baby girls from an orphanage in China.
The book tells of the long adoption process and the emotions that come with it.
The seven parents travel to the White Swan Hotel in China together, exchanging stories on the way.
WHO'S IN MY FAMILY? ALL ABOUT OUR FAMILIES
The book looks at the diversity of families as it follows a family's outing to the zoo. It talks about how different families eat different types of food. For instance, some eat bacon and eggs for breakfast, while others eat pita bread and hummus.
The book makes references to various types of families, such as same-sex, single-parent and extended ones.
This article was first published on July 9, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.