THOUGHTS ON MINISTER YAACOB’S FB POST

1. Minister Yaacob Ibrahim wrote in a FB post (read it here: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/mobile/singapore/nlb-s-decision-to/1254672.html?cid=FBSG) that,

…NLB’s decision was guided by community norms. Public libraries serve the community and it is right that they give consideration to community norms. The prevailing norms, which the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans accept, support teaching children about conventional families, but not about alternative, non-traditional families, which is what the books in question are about. This approach is shared between all public agencies dealing with the education and care of young Singaporeans.

Like in other societies, there is considerable effort by some in Singapore to shift these norms, and equally strong pushback by those who don’t wish to see change. Societies are never static, and will change over time. But NLB’s approach is to reflect existing social norms, and not to challenge or seek to change them.

2. I think it is absolutely fine for public libraries to reflect existing (familial) norms, but I don’t think that by allowing books which include contents that mention about other familial forms is akin to diluting the reflection of existing norms by public libraries.

3. Additionally, the mere allowing of books which include contends that mention about other familial forms does not imply that the NLB is seeking to challenge or seek to change the existing social norms, or even to promote “new norms” unless there are campaigns by the NLB to actively promote those books? I think there is no such campaign so far.

4. The libraries are resource banks for readers, and thus as much as possible it should include a diversity of resources that reflect the world around us. The world as it is today is not unfamiliar with the diverse familial forms other than the traditional nuclear family, and with globalization most Singaporeans would know of this fact. Reflecting existing social norms does not mean rejecting information about alternative, non-traditional families.

5. To those who argue that those books are still readily available elsewhere other than the NLB libraries such that it is pointless and no big deal for people to disagree with the move of NLB, we also have to acknowledge the fact that the NLB libraries has over 5 million items and it purchases about 1 million items per year, thus making the NLB libraries the most convenient stop for reading materials, at no cost to readers! Who else can match the NLB in that? So is the removal of titles or when some titles are not made “readily available” from the NLB libraries actually impactful? In case you doubt it, do you know those titles aren’t readily available elsewhere too (read http://www.channelnewsasia.com/mobile/singapore/nlb-book-withdrawal/1255412.html)?

6. The baseline is that the NLB can still reflect existing social norms even if it doesn’t withdraw certain titles. So why does it withdraw those titles and cause the ensuing debate in the first place?

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