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Other titles withdrawn because of internal reviews: NLB

The National Library Board (NLB) says another three children’s book titles were withdrawn not because of feedback, but after they had been internally reviewed for “age-appropriateness”.

SINGAPORE: The National Library Board (NLB) had withdrawn several other children’s book titles from its collection, but this was following internal reviews, not because of customer feedback.

It said this on in response to a report by The Straits Times, which the statutory board said implied it had been “misleading” in terms of how many books it had pulled off its shelves.

The report on Tuesday (July 15) stated that the NLB had removed at least six children’s titles recently, even though chief executive Elaine Ng had said last week that only three titles were pulled this year.

In a letter to The Straits Times’ Forum – which was also sent to TODAY – NLB Communications, Relations and Development Director T Sundraraj said the library board has “consistently stated” that the three titles – And Tango Makes Three, The White Swan Express and Who’s In My Family? – were the only ones withdrawn this year as a result of customer feedback. The other titles – by author Robie Harris – mentioned in the Straits Times report were withdrawn not because of customer feedback, but after they had been internally reviewed for “age-appropriateness”.

“As we have stated before, our librarians regularly review children’s books. They look at 4,000 to 5,000 children’s titles each year as part of their ongoing review process,” said Mr Sundraraj, who also called the report “sensational”.

The withdrawal of the three titles – due to complaints that they were not “pro-family” – has been the subject of controversy in the past week, drawing both protest and support from the public.

Playwright and novelist Ovidia Yu resigned from the steering committee of the Singapore Writers Festival, of which the NLB was a programme partner, while four other writers – Dr Gwee Li Sui, Mr Adrian Tan, Mr Prem Anand and Mr Felix Cheong – pulled out of an NLB panel discussion scheduled for last Sunday, leading to its cancellation. A mass reading event against the withdrawal, held on Sunday outside the National Library Building, drew several hundred participants.

Meanwhile, an online letter supporting the NLB’s decision garnered more than 25,000 signatures as of Sunday night, before the call for signatures ended at midnight. The organisers, who are behind a Facebook group called Singaporeans United for Family, said on Monday it was sending the letter to ministers from the Ministry of Communications and Information, Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Ministry of Education.

The three titles by Ms Harris that were removed from the NLB’s collection are It’s Not The Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families And Friends; It’s So Amazing!: A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, And Families; and It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, And Sexual Health. The books are on sex education for children and the range of family structures featured include those with single parents and same-sex couples.

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