Public library’s role is to safeguard freedom of expression, not play it safe by hiding gay-themed books

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 June, 2018, 12:03pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 June, 2018, 12:03pm

The library is a marketplace of ideas; it goes without saying that it is a place that enriches our minds and souls. Unfathomably, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department has succumbed to anti-gay bigotry and removed 10 gay-themed children’s books from our public library shelves (“LGBT-themed books removed from library shelves”, June 20).

The books in question feature same-sex parents and other LGBT themes, and it is not a surprise that these titles don't win the approval of homophobes and the self-righteous moral police in our society.

While they have the right to voice their opinion, they don’t have the right to foist their beliefs and values on the wider community.

These titles are not only appropriate for children but send a powerful message about diversity. One of the titles, And Tango Makes Three, is critically acclaimed and has won multiple awards. In fact, the cultural services department admitted that of the 10 titles, seven are “neutral without promoting homosexual or single-sex marriage”.

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As the custodian of the public library system, the department has a duty to defend vigorously against any form of censorship or suppression of freedom of expression. In this case, it failed its duty and neglected to follow the spirit and letter of the Unesco Public Library Manifesto.

Also, it is tragic that the department tried to evade the issue by hiding behind bureaucratic mumbo jumbo. The very act of taking books off the shelves without justification is in itself a form of censorship and promotion of a particular view.

It is not too late for the department to reverse this absurdity and put the books back on the shelves. Perhaps they should be gently reminded that their job is not placate any group or person but to safeguard freedom of expression and access to free information, so that our public libraries can continue to be places of enlightenment.

Jerome Yau, Happy Valley