The National Library Board (NLB) has received 11 complaints from members of the public regarding titles that allegedly contained homosexual content since 2014, said Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran on Monday (10 September).
Of these titles, eight were moved to library sections for older readers while the remaining three were deemed suitable to remain in the collection for children and young adults, Iswaran said in Parliament.
According to media reports, the NLB has also received feedback on 23 books over issues of race, religion and “other topics”.
Seven of these titles were moved to sections for older readers, while another eight were left in their original sections. The remaining eight were Malay-language children’s books – “Agama, Tamadun Dan Arkeologi (Religion, Civilisation and Archeology)” – which were removed in June last year due to their “controversial” religious content.
“The NLB seeks to balance the need for a wide-ranging library collection with sensitivity towards our community norms,” said Iswaran. The 56-year-old West Coast GRC MP added that the NLB relies on book selectors, pre-publication information from vendors and publishers, and review copies in order to assess suitable material for its collections.
A Library Consultative Panel was also established in 2015 to “provide diverse community perspectives and recommendations to NLB on books which are being reviewed due to content concerns”, said Iswaran.
The panel was formed in the wake of a public uproar over literary censorship in 2014 regarding three children’s books with gay themes.
“Who’s In My Family”, which includes references to gay couples, was destroyed by the NLB, while two others – “And Tango Makes Three“, which features two male penguins raising a baby and “The White Swan”, which features gay parents and their adopted children – were moved to the adult section of public libraries.
Yaacob Ibrahim, who was Minister for Information and Communications at the time, said on Facebook that he supported the NLB’s decision, adding that it would “continue to ensure that books in the children’s section are age-appropriate”.