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What books are withdrawn and why: National Library Board

In the wake of controversy over its decision to pull three titles for not being "pro-family", the National Library Board explains what types of books it withdraws from its shelves.

SINGAPORE: The National Library Board's (NLB) selection process for books is under scrutiny, following controversy over its decision to pull three titles that did not promote the traditional notions of family.

A #FreeMyLibrary social media campaign and at least two petitions have been launched in opposition to the move. NLB on Thursday (July 10) stressed that it would not be reinstating the withdrawn titles. However, it stated that its collection policy "does not exclude materials on alternative lifestyles".

Channel NewsAsia sent NLB the following queries on its selection process for books, and these are its replies.

Q: NLB receives an average of 20 requests a year, not all these were related to children books. What are some examples? 

A: We receive about 20 requests a year. We withdraw less than a third of those requested, out of our collection of over 5 million items. For instance, we were asked to remove James Patterson’s “Kill me if you can”, which is in the Adult collection, on the basis that it contains an incest theme. We kept the title in our Adult collection.

An example of a withdrawn title from the Adult collection: “The Embassy House: the explosive eyewitness account of the Libya embassy siege by the soldier who was there”. The publisher fed back that it was found to contain inconsistent accounts of events of the 2012 Benghazi Consulate attack.

Q: What is NLB’s review process for its books?  

A: Given our large collection of over 5 million books and audio-visual materials, we continuously review the books that we carry in our libraries. Books are regularly discussed by librarians from across the 24 branches and the senior management of Public Libraries, headed by the Chief Librarian. As our librarians interact with thousands of visitors, they have a sensing of the needs and concerns of the community that they serve at each library. Reference is also made to our Collection Development Policy during such discussions. The two copies of ‘And Tango makes Three’, for instance, came in a few months ago. Not long after they came, they surfaced during our regular reviews by the librarians. Hence, the parent’s feedback on these books was in line with our own concerns, and NLB removed the books

Q: How many children's titles were pulled out of the libraries this year and what are they?

A: Based on customers’ feedback, “And Tango Makes Three”, “The White Swan Express” and “Who is in my Family?” are the only three children’s titles withdrawn from our collection this year.

Q: Were these titles removed because they "go against the pro-family stand" of the NLB?

A: NLB’s collection development policy takes special care of our children’s collections to ensure they are age-appropriate. We take a cautious approach, particularly in books and materials for children. NLB’s understanding of family is consistent with that of the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Ministry of Education.

Our Adult collection does contain titles with homosexual themes and our collection policy does not exclude materials on alternative lifestyles. 

Q: How many among the one million items purchased in a year are for the children's section?

A: We have a collection of 5 million items and we purchase about 1 million items per year. Children’s books are a very high percentage of this, as many of these books undergo wear and tear.

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