NLB to separate book acquisition and review teams; advisory panel to be set up: Yaacob

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (left), Minister for Communications and Information, looking at the resources during the launch of Read! Fest programme on 20 June 2014. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (left), Minister for Communications and Information, looking at the resources during the launch of Read! Fest programme on 20 June 2014. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 

SINGAPORE - The National Library Board (NLB) will keep separate the team that selects books for acquisition, and the team that reviews the books, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim said in Parliament on Monday.

The Minister for Communications and Information said such segregation of responsibilities is not clearly spelt out now, but is a "good practice" that he believes will "lead to greater public confidence in the review process".

The library board drew controversy last month after it was found to have removed three children's titles following public feedback, as they contained references to same-sex couples. Following the incident, the NLB said it would set up an external advisory panel to review potentially controversial titles.

Dr Yaacob said the advisory panel wil help the library board "take into account the broader concerns of the community".

"Such a committee should represent a cross-section of society, and include members from the literary community," he said, adding that the NLB is still working out the details of the panel.

Dr Yaacob said the NLB had acquired one of the books, And Tango Makes Three, in 2005. The book, which features two male penguins raising a chick, was internally reviewed in 2009, but the library made the decision then to retain it in the children's section.

"When we reviewed it in 2009 and we decided to retain it, it was looking at perhaps the discussion at that point in time. Things have changed, a fresh pair of eyes took a look at the book again, there was feedback from the public, and [NLB] decided maybe it was not appropriate for us to have the book in the children's section," he said.

He added that making such assessments on books is "not an exact science", and that those reviewing the books have their own "prejudices and biases".

While the review process will never be foolproof, Dr Yaacob said he hopes it can be improved with the advisory panel.