Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘nlb

Here is an anecdote to add to our story to be a Smart Nation. It reveals how far we are from the starting line.

Early last week, I returned a library book via the book drop kiosk on my way to work in the morning. It beeped and the “Returned” indicator flashed to confirm the transaction.

About an hour later, I received email that the book was still due. Did I imagine returning the book or did the kiosk not register my return?

The next day, I received email that confirmed that I had returned the book the previous day. Apparently, it takes a day to register transactions and send notifications. Even telegrams worked faster!

What is the point of replacing inefficient human processes with equally inefficient but automated processes? If we are going to claim to be a Smart Nation, we need to identify the stupid processes that prevent us from starting on that journey.

I say we start by getting rid of the people who cannot empathise with the people they are supposed to be helping. Here is a tip: If someone is going to fire them, do it in person. It might take a while for an automated response to get to them.

I have not had to buy or borrow a dead-tree book for a long time.

I have been given courtesy copies of books I contributed to. Late last year I received a hardcover copy of a textbook for the Masters course I facilitate because no one asked for the e-version.

About a week ago, I discovered Naked Statistics at a cafe. I thought I found the e-book at our national library, but discovered that it was only a summary. Thankfully the book, in hardcover no less, was available at my local library.

E-book summary of Naked Statistics.

The last time I borrowed an actual library book was almost ten years ago; I only borrow e-books if I need to.

I was aware that I could use an app to borrow actual books without joining the queue at a self-checkout kiosk. So I downloaded the app, logged in to my library account, and scanned the barcode to borrow the book. Eager to devour the book, I read the first two chapters before leaving the library.

NLB mobile app in Apple App Store.

I had to pass through a series of scanners on my way out of the library. The first one beeped like I had kidnapped a member of the royal family. There seemed to be a delayed response between borrowing the book via the app and registering that it was actually borrowed.

The app has a low rating in the app store. None of the reviews that I read mentioned the lag between borrowing and registering. Most mentioned app lagginess and legacy issues.

I asked a librarian if I should be concerned about alarms going off as I made my way through more scanners. She brushed off the issue by saying that the scanners were too sensitive. Did I hurt their feelings by not borrowing enough paper-based books?

Two more questions. Might the lagginess might lie in how the app communicates with a central database? Could the legacy issue be old mindsets on how libraries operate?

And Tango Makes Three - Banned Books Wee by Rob Dumas, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Rob Dumas 

Someone wrote yet another letter to the ST forum to point out that And Tango Makes Three was also banned from some libraries and schools in the the US. I do not know if the writer or someone in the paper titled the letter Book caused stir in America too.

“America” has become synonymous with the “United States of America”, but they are not the same thing. When I was a graduate student in the US, I met a Venezuelan, Chilean, and Brazilian who pointed out that they were proud Americans too. South Americans to be precise.

The same could be said about those in Central and North America. Let us not misrepresent the scale of the ban and try to justify our actions by saying that someone else bigger than us did the same thing.

The writer also declared:

And Tango Makes Three, has been among the most banned books in public libraries and schools across the United States, which has long been known to be an open and liberal Western society.

With one sweep of the brush, she painted all of the US as open and liberal. Really? Some of the most conservative people live there. Some of the most uneducated and poorest live there too.

Where did the writer get her information about the US from? From our local press? From television programmes and movies? From a whirlwind trip to tourist spots in the US?

How about actually living there for a while, listening to a variety of US citizens, observing what happens on public transport, or even suffering verbal abuse on the street? How about alternative points of view so that there is a balanced painting of the overall picture?

That is what books like And Tango Makes Three and the civil discussions that emerge from reading it are about. It is not about promoting an alternative lifestyle that you do not believe in. It is about telling our children what the world is and teaching them to think critically and independently.

If we do not do this, the least of our problems will be assumptions that Singapore is in China and the US is America. The bigger problems we perpetuate are ignorance and apathy which can spawn hatred and bigotry.

There is a hubbub about three children’s books being withdrawn and destroyed by the National Library Board (NLB) because they were deemed inappropriate to family norms. There has been a backlash on social media and just about everyone seems to have something to say about it.

I will not lead by offering my two cents. Instead I ask a few questions first.

  • What exactly are societal norms of what constitutes a family?
  • Why do online rags like saying that moves like NLB’s “drew flak from netizens” (as if no other party fired salvos)?
  • When are we going to allow actual stakeholders (library users in this case) to vote on whether to allow the books to stay on the shelves?

If you think about it, the main issue is not so much about why the books were banned and more about how we deal with creative and critical enterprise as a society. We are very much a nannied state.

Going off on a tangent, I draw a parallel from the arena of the performing arts. Local artists are protesting the Media Development Authority’s self-licensing/self-classification/self-­censorship scheme because they argue that it is still about central regulation.

Video source

Coming back on topic, why does the NLB not ban some other children’s books because of unbecoming family values?

Take Snow White off the shelves. A step-mother talks to a mirror and decides to kill her step-daughter. The step-daughter lives with not one but seven men of questionable repute. When they sing hi-ho while off to work they go, they might mean something else altogether.

Remove Hansel and Gretel for parents who leave their kids to die in the woods only for the kids to kill the woman who took them in. Granted the woman treated Gretel like a slave and wanted to eat Hansel, but why expose our kids to such trauma and violence and plant these ideas in their heads?

And let us not forget about Beauty and the Beast. What family values are there in settling a debt by selling your daughter and letting said daughter dabble in beastiality?

I admit that I take some creative licence in retelling these stories based on movies which were based on books.

As ridiculous as these examples might sound, the point I am trying to make is that we need to take in more perspectives and new perspectives. Blogger, Mr Miyagi, put it best when he implored:

But I beg you to wake up and look around you. These things hap­pen. Please SUPPORT, not PROMOTE, teenaged, sin­gle, wid­owed par­ents and what­ever is left of their fam­i­lies! These books are part of a com­mu­nity life­line for chil­dren who through no fault of their own, have been labelled “illegitimate”.

There is a silver lining around this saga of banned children’s books. More attention has been drawn to the books, owners of these books are organizing read ins, and responsible parents and educators are talking to their kids about the issues these books raise.

Singapore turns 50 next year and there was a call for ideas on what and how to celebrate. The deadline for ideas is over, so I suggest we give ourselves a birthday present. Is it too much to ask that we show get maturity and act our age?

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code

Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets


Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: