Parliament: 11 complaints made about library books with homosexual content since 2014

The National Library Board brings in an average of 86,000 new titles for Singapore's 26 public libraries each year.
The National Library Board brings in an average of 86,000 new titles for Singapore's 26 public libraries each year.ST PHOTO: SONG TAO

SINGAPORE - The National Library Board (NLB) has moved eight titles in the children's section to sections for older readers over the past four years, in response to complaints that they contain homosexual content.

Since 2014, the board received 11 complaints from the public over books with homosexual content, said Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran in Parliament on Monday (Sept 10).

Eight of these titles were since moved to sections for older readers, while three were deemed suitable to remain in the original collection for children and young adults, he added.

He was responding to Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun, who had asked about the number of complaints made against books containing homosexual, religious or racial content.

On books dealing with racial, religious and other topics, the NLB received feedback on 23 such titles.

Of these, seven were moved to sections for older readers and eight were retained in the original collection. A series of eight Malay children's titles - Agama, Tamadun Dan Arkeologi (Religion, Civilisation and Archeology) - were withdrawn in June last year, due to controversial religious content.

Mr Iswaran said: "The NLB seeks to balance the need for a wide-ranging library collection with sensitivity towards our community norms."

 
 
 

Apart from having a team of book selectors, it also relies on pre-publication information from publishers and vendors, as well as reviews from library journals and, sometimes, review copies to decide on what books are suitable for the library.

A Library Consultative Panel comprising citizens from "a wide cross-section" of society was established in 2015 to provide community perspectives and recommendations on books that are being reviewed due to content concerns raised by members of the public.

This panel had been formed following an uproar over NLB's decision to remove three children's books with homosexual content.

This led it to return two titles - And Tango Makes Three and The White Swan Express - to its shelves, but in the adult section. The third, Who's In My Family, was destroyed before the issue came to light.

The NLB brings in an average of 86,000 new titles for Singapore's 26 public libraries each year, and titles are chosen based on a "collection policy which aims to provide age-appropriate and diverse reading material", said Mr Iswaran.

"The collection policy also takes reference from the Infocomm Media Development Authority's general Content Guidelines for Imported Publications," he added.