Withdrawn NLB books to be pulped

The children's books that National Library Board has taken off its shelves for not promoting family values, will be pulped - literally.

"We have withdrawn the titles, there's no putting them back," said Jasna Dhansukhlal, assistant director for NLB's public library services.

Asked about the pulping, she said: "I can't describe all of it. Basically, they're pulped, and no longer in existence."

NLB receives an average of 20 requests to remove titles of adults' and children's books each year. It accepts less than a third of these requests to withdraw books.

As for the process of selecting its books, NLB said it checks book reviews, trade journals and catalogues. The selections are also discussed among NLB staff.

The two recently withdrawn books that sparked public debate made it to library shelves while reviews were ongoing.

"We were reviewing the titles. We have a collection of five million titles and we have been reviewing these titles, among others," said Ms Dhansukhlal.

One of these books, And Tango Makes Three, was among the books that most schools and libraries in the United States had sought to ban.

The Straits Times yesterday revealed that three other books were removed from library shelves in April, following complaints from the public.

The three books by American author Robie H. Harris have been widely controversial in the US, according to checks by My Paper. One of the titles, It's Perfectly Normal, has been on the banned list in the US since 1996 for seeming to encourage sexual gratification.

The book, targeted at children aged 10 and above, affirms homosexuality and masturbation as "perfectly normal".

NLB declined to say if the three books were ever in the library's catalogue.

It said it takes a "pro-family stand" in book selection, adding that its definition of family was "consistent with (the definitions by) the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Ministry of Education".

Asked if NLB was taking a stand on the homosexuality issue by withdrawing the two books for good, Ms Dhansukhlal said: "I don't think we're taking any stand."

Meanwhile, two online petitions have been launched, calling on NLB to reinstate the books, while a peaceful protest will be held this weekend on the right of kids to read.

Initiated by Facebook users Germaine Eliza Ong and Jolene Tan, the Let's Read Together event will circulate copies of the withdrawn books.

Some parents agree with NLB's move. Yong Chee Yee, a father of five, said that books for young children should be "straightforward, with values like honesty". Mature themes should only be introduced later, said the HR manager.

However, others felt that it was better to talk to their children about such issues. Housewife Elizabeth Li said that such topics should not be swept under the rug. "Books are a good starting point to tell them about the positive and negative points, and where your stand is."

The mother of three, who has read And Tango Makes Three with her nine-year-old daughter, said she felt it was a "nice, heartwarming story".

thrinat@sph.com.sg


Get MyPaper for more stories.

Become a fan on Facebook