Singapore

NLB to review book vetting process: MCI

Panel, which was set up after And Tango Makes Three incident, will study controversial Malay language books

The National Library Board (NLB) will be reviewing its vetting process of books, following its withdrawal of about 300 books from a controversial Malay language series found in the children's section.

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), which oversees the NLB, has asked it to review its procedures after a report in The New Paper yesterday.

A ministry spokesman said MCI agreed with NLB's decision to pull the books from its shelves, and said it has asked NLB to review its vetting process for potentially divisive and sensitive materials.

"As a multi-cultural and multi-racial society, we do not condone materials that denigrate any racial or religious groups, or which promote intolerance or violence," the spokesman said.

"The cultural and racial harmony that our people enjoy today has taken us generations to build.

"This must not be taken for granted.

"We thank the member of public and The New Paper for raising this particular series to our attention."

TNP had seen some posts on Twitter on Sunday about the books, and went to the library to look into it.

The tweets have since been removed.

Responding to queries from TNP, an NLB spokesman said yesterday that about 70,000 new titles are purchased and added to its shelves each year.

"NLB takes special care with books in the children's collection, looking out for excessive violence, graphic sexual content, race and religious sensitivities, crude language and disturbing images," said the spokesman.

"In the case of this series, it was selected based on the synopsis by the publisher that it is a factual book series on civilisations, archaeology and religions."

All the books have since been removed from the library shelves, and NLB is contacting the borrowers of the remaining books to return them as soon as possible.

The NLB will get its Library Consultative Panel (LCP) to review the series.

The LCP is an independent body made up of members from a broad cross-section of society. It provides recommendations to NLB on its review of library materials, including those submitted by members of the public.

The panel was set up following an incident in 2014 involving the book And Tango Makes Three, which was reviewed following public uproar as some felt the book encouraged homosexuality. That book was eventually moved to the adult's section.

TNP understands that the NLB has at least two departments that handle the books before they are placed on the shelves.

The first procures the books, while the other sorts them into their respective categories.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for communication and information, said parents considered libraries a place where the books their children read are "safe".

"We have to ensure that trust remains intact," he said.

"We need to be more vigilant in terms of what books we allow to be borrowed.

"In terms of content, some of the messages might not suit our multi-cultural context." - additional reporting by Muhammad Afiq Roslan

booksMINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION (MCI)LIBRARIES