From ‘NLB saddened by criticism over removal of books’, 13 July 2014, article by Akshita Nandra, Sunday Times
The National Library Board did not anticipate the widespread dismay that greeted news that it had removed three children’s books following complaints about their homosexual themes, chief executive Elaine Ng said yesterday.
She told The Sunday Times in an interview that she was saddened that several local writers have withdrawn from library-related events in protest. “I’m saddened by their disappointment in us. I would like to engage those who have worked with us for a long time and hope they will accept our outstretched hands in future,” she said.
But the NLB is not changing its decision to keep the three books off the shelves. They will not be resold or donated as usually happens with discarded books, because of concern that they might be unsuitable for young children.
…”It’s unfortunate that it appears to be a knee-jerk reaction but we have an ongoing process of review,” said Ms Ng. The NLB has a collection of five million books, acquires one million a year and reviews between 4,000 and 5,000 titles a year for suitability.
Ms Ng said information about the withdrawals could have been communicated better, and suggested a public dialogue “down the road”. Asked why not hold it now, she replied: “Things are still fairly emotional.“
…The NLB has not been without its supporters. One Facebook group, Singaporeans United For Family, has commended its action and claimed to have gathered more than 24,000 signatures of support as of yesterday.
In 2011, MTI minister Lim Hng Khiang praised the library as a ‘very progressive organisation’. CEO Elaine Ng chimed in by describing libraries as social learning spaces that ‘draw and unite people across ALL ages and CULTURES’. 3 years on and Minister Yaacob has suggested that the NLB also has a duty to conform to ‘existing social/community norms‘. You can’t be both ‘progressive’ and be a nanny at the same time. ‘Outstretched hands’ notwithstanding, Elaine Ng, a former research analyst and high-flyer at MINDEF, did not provide her explanation as to why the books are ‘unsuitable for young children’ and must be destroyed at all costs. I doubt they did the same thing to 50 Shades of Grey. More like a Thousand Shreds of Black and White if ‘And Three Makes Tango’ gets turned into mush. Or what about that 1987 movie about 3 grown men living together taking turns looking after a baby girl. Smash and burn the damned VCD with fire! Look at Steve Guttenberg’s face! Just look at it!
By not elaborating on why ‘alternative/non-traditional’ families are ‘bad’ for children, NLB’s allowing the ‘overwhelming majority’ to do the explaining on their behalf online. To say that things have been ‘fairly emotional’ is not only an understatement, but implies that NLB has mulled over the ban in a calm, objective manner unlike the pack of wild animals that is the general public; that ultimately they still believe they’ve done the right thing. This coming from a chief who was awarded a ‘People Engagement’ trophy in 2013.
irememberSG (@iremembersg) April 30, 2013
Here’s a snapshot of what this self-declared ‘majority’ of concerned Singaporeans are feeling at the moment, according to the ‘Singaporeans United for Family’ FB page.
Eternal, congratulatory gratitude
Hell, just give the NLB a standing ovation and National Day award already. Unlimited loans for you and your family, sir!
Bring a crucifix to the penguin enclosure at the zoo next time. They are EVIL.
Thank you for loving gays as HUMAN PERSONS. DOWN WITH WESTERN CULTURE and their HIV epidemics!
Still, nothing sells a book like controversy, and although a few copies may be sacrificed in the pyre, ultimately the authors of Tango may even have NLB to thank for the publicity. A reading event has been organised right outside the National Library as we speak, with copies of intact Tango books available, granted permission by the Police of course. For an event intended for CHILDREN. Is that #wearwhite thing still on? Time to do some work, guys. Just make sure you don’t end up looking like, erm, penguins i.e #wearblackandwhite.
NLB, you’ve just slapped yourself with that ‘outstretched hand’, and too bad we don’t have weekly bestseller lists anymore that we can shove in your self-righteous faces when a story about gay penguins makes it to the top of the charts. Penguins aside, I still enjoy a good browse every now and then, and I love that I can still find and borrow rare, surprising titles like Naomi Wolf’s ‘Vagina’ and The F-Word without anyone charging at me with a burning pitchfork ranting about defiling community norms or Sodom and Gomorrah.
UPDATE: Minister Yaacob ordered the offending books to be relocated to the adults section, and the complaints persisted. Some were afraid of pranksters deliberating misplacing the books back in the children’s section, while others disagreed that Tango should be labelled as such and wasn’t ‘age-appropriate’ for mature people. NLB must be thinking they shouldn’t have brought this in in the first place.