Tap volunteers to review new books for libraries
The Communications and Information Minister said it is “not possible” for the authority to examine every piece of reading material (Removal of controversial Malay books: NLB to learn from incident, but can’t vet every book, says Yaacob; June 9, online).
The National Library Board also said it cannot vet all titles thoroughly, given the large collection, so it takes seriously readers’ feedback on titles added to its collections.
It is worrying, however, that books of questionable suitability had been available in the libraries’ junior non-fiction section since 2013, with the NLB’s attention drawn to them only now.
Does this mean the earlier borrowers of these books agree with the values imparted therein? Given the global situation, should not the NLB or other authorities do background checks? The NLB should have a record of the borrowers’ particulars.
In reviewing operations vis-a-vis the vetting of material, the NLB could consider tapping human resources out there: Retired professionals, doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers, educators, religious leaders, et cetera.
Many would surely welcome the opportunity to volunteer by reviewing three to four books yearly. The NLB could invite them to register as volunteer reviewers and to indicate their reading preferences, plus the number of books they can review annually.
They could be issued with a special library card for collecting (and returning) the books from the branch nearest their home. Review check-off forms should be provided.
A new title should be reviewed by three volunteers at least. If two of them express reservations, then the book should be referred to the Library Consultative Panel for detailed vetting and consideration.