NLB to tweak review process

The National Library Board (NLB) will fine-tune its review process and may set up an external panel to help look at potentially controversial titles, its chief executive Elaine Ng said yesterday.

It will also place two controversial children's books in its adult section, instead of pulping them.

There has been much heated debate since it was revealed that NLB had removed the two books after receiving complaints that they were not "pro-family".

NLB has not decided which libraries the two children's titles, which contain homosexual references, will now go to, or when they will be reinstated.

Ms Ng said it will take about a week for the board to decide.

Minister of Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday morning that And Tango Makes Three and The White Swan Express will be put back in the library's adult collection.

Acknowledging that the current review process has room for improvements, Ms Ng said the library board will take a leaf from external organisations and "study what works best for us".

She reiterated that the decision to remove the children's titles had always been about making sure that content in the children's section of the libraries remains "age-appropriate".

Young children are the most frequent visitors at Singapore's 25 public libraries, and many browse unsupervised, she said.

So NLB "takes special care with the books in our children's section".

Ms Ng explained that "pulping" is a "technical term used in the book industry to describe the recycling of printed materials".

"We had used the term without any intention at all of denigrating books," she said.

"As book lovers ourselves, we understand the reactions."

She was referring to the strong reactions from some Singaporeans when NLB had earlier said that the books which were removed would be pulped.

45 per cent back NLB stand: Poll

Many Singaporeans are unaware of the debate over the National Library Board (NLB) removing three children's books from public libraries.

And among those who knew of it, less than half supported the move, a poll shows. The poll by the Government's feedback unit Reach found that four in 10 of the 843 citizens surveyed knew nothing of the debate, which occurred after the NLB received complaints that the books were not "pro-family".

But of the six out of 10 who were aware of the controversy, 45 per cent supported NLB's move, while 28 per cent disagreed. And 23 per cent declared themselves neutral on the issue.

Just over half of all respondents agreed that books promoting values that are not in line with traditional family values should not be made available in the children's sections.

Reach chairman Amy Khor said the results "remind us that there are still issues that are divisive and can fracture us as a country".

She added: "It is therefore important not to let these divisions deepen and tear us apart... Let us discuss this rationally and find a common ground that we can agree on."

This article was first published on July 19, 2014.
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