Olympic Living Library

A couple of years ago I heard about Scandinavian libraries where you could “check out” a person and talk to them about their life. It seemed like an interesting way for people to develop empathy for people who are not like themselves.

The living library concept has been adopted by libraries all over the world. The hope is that the information passed on by a human book will help counter ignorance, prejudice and discrimination.

The living library concept has been incorporated into the Olympic homeless pavilion. This pavillion has been set up to explain the poverty in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to journalists, spectators and tourists from around the world. Visitors can listen to a Real Homeless Person from the Downtown Eastside talk about their experiences. I agree with the Vancouver Sun article that argues that this idea is contrived.

Nobody needs publicity shots of smiling politicians, pre-canned 200-word testimonials or human books to find out about life in the city’s poorest neighbourhood.

You just need to go outside.

The homeless and destitute still fill our streets. And they will be there in their unnatural habitat, whether you like it or not, for the world to see, during the Games.

I am angry and frustrated that so much money has been spent on a spectacle, while there have been cuts to social services like education, libraries, and legal aid. The homeless need homes, not to be books in a living library.