Our 25 public libraries are community spaces which attract over 27 million visitors a year. Of these, young children are among our most frequent visitors. Many of them browse unsupervised at the shelves of our children's section.
With this understanding in mind, NLB has to decide on age appropriate books that the majority of parents would be comfortable with when their young children browse unsupervised in the children’s section of our public libraries.
Hence, NLB takes special care with the books in our children's sections to ensure that they are age-appropriate. Other libraries around the world would have their own guidelines on what is acceptable for children in their communities.
In the adults section of our public libraries, we take a much broader view. You will see that it has a wide range of themes and titles.
Our decision to remove the books from the children’s section has always been about making sure that the books in our children’s section are age-appropriate.
NLB is not deciding what books children can or cannot read. That decision remains with parents, as it always has been.
Many objected to the idea that books which are withdrawn from circulation will be pulped. Pulping is a technical term used in the book industry to describe the recycling of printed materials.
We had used the term without any intention at all of denigrating books. As book lovers ourselves, we understand the reactions.
There is a deep seated respect in all our cultures for the written word. Therefore, as instructed by our Minister, we will move the two books - ‘And Tango Makes Three’, and ‘The White Swan Express’ - to the adult section of the public libraries. We do not want to be viewed as destroying books that are in good condition, as it was never our intention to denigrate books.
We also recognise that the processes we have in place for reviewing feedback about our books must improve. This will not be the last time that NLB will find itself facing requests to review our books.
We will therefore also take this opportunity to make our review processes of potentially controversial books to be more transparent. We will look at examples of other organisations that have tapped on external panels and develop a process that will work best for us.