'Not possible' to vet all reading material but NLB will tighten processes: Yaacob

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SINGAPORE: It is “not possible” for the National Library Board (NLB) to go through every piece of reading material that is placed on the shelves of public libraries, but the vetting process will be tightened, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim on Friday (Jun 9). 

He was responding to questions about the withdrawal of a series of Malay books for young readers, containing controversial content on religion. It was flagged by a member of the public, prompting the NLB to remove the books from the junior non-fiction section of libraries.

When asked if guidelines will be imposed on NLB’s vetting process, Dr Yaacob said they would be “impossible to enforce”.

“By and large, we have a panel of librarians that go through the material but it is not possible for us to go through all … it’s just the volume of material that comes into the library – be it here or anywhere else – it’s just impossible,” he explained on the sidelines of a reading event. 

That is why, Dr Yaacob said, authorities have to rely on members of the public to give feedback: “I’m glad that someone has come forward and we will continue to build upon that so that we can develop tighter processes as we go along.”

A Twitter user posted photos of the books and their allegedly offensive contents. (Photo: @POZboySG/Twitter)

NLB explained on Thursday that it uses a variety of tools such as pre-publication information from publishers and vendors, as well as reviews from library journals to guide its selection of books.

Dr Yaacob said NLB has done its due diligence, and that more importantly, it has taken “decisive steps” to take the controversial books off the shelves. 

“We take every incident as a learning experience,” he added.

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