A government minister has said that the National Library Board of Singapore was guided by community norms in its recent decision to withdraw three children' s titles about alternative families, local media reported on Saturday.
Meanwhile, several local writers said they are pulling out of activities involving the National Library Board, saying that it is in protest against the book withdrawal, the Straits Times said.
The controversy made headlines recently in Singapore following the decision of the library board to pull the titles such as The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption, featuring a lesbian couple among others; Who's In My Family?: All About Our Families, which features various family structures; and And Tango Makes Three, a book based on the true story of two male penguins which hatched an egg in a New York zoo and often challenged by readers.
It said that the books are not "pro-family."
The move had sparked an outcry online.
Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said in a Facebook post on Friday that it is right for public libraries to consider 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," he said.
He said there is "considerable effort" by some in the city state to shift the norms, and an "equally strong pushback."
"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," he said.
Responding to a question on whether the National Library Board based its decision on complaints by a small group, the minister said that it was not based on one complaint and that it has a " process where its officers carefully consider such feedback."
Local news outlet Channel NewsAsia reported that the National Library Board receives about 20 requests a year and that not all of these were related to children's books.
"We receive about 20 requests a year. We withdraw less than a third of those requested, out of our collection of over 5 million items," the board said, citing the example of a decision to remove James Patterson's Kill Me If You Can from the adult collection on the basis that it contains an incest theme.
The removal pertained only to the children's section in public libraries.
Zaqy Mohamad, a lawmaker and chairman of the government parliamentary committee for communications and information, said library users, who often hope the public libraries brings in new titles quickly and offers a wide selection, "should be prepared for small errors to occur, and that books which breach any guidelines can be withdrawn."
The Straits Times said that five writers are pulling out of activities involving the National Library Board. Gwee Li Sui, Adrian Tan, Prem Anand and Felix Cheong canceled their panel Humor Is Serious Business, supposed to be held Sunday at the Central Public Library as part of the Read! Singapore initiative.
Playwright and novelist Ovidia Yu also resigned from the steering committee of the Singapore Writers Festival, where the National Library Board is a partner.
Some of the writers said that they are upset that these books will be pulped, rather than resold or offered to homes.
"This is my first time taking this kind of drastic action," said Cheong, 49, who would have spoken at the panel for free and has done similar activities at the National Library Board for over 10 years. "I've always obliged because they are promoting books but this is very anti-book, which is why I'm so upset and angry."
The father of a teenage son added: "As a father, I use books as an opportunity to open discussion of difficult topics, not close them."