The Library at Camp Delta

Books travel. They cross oceans, are smuggled over borders, and are held dear by readers around the world. They connect us.

Some 18,000 volumes in over a dozen languages have found their way to Camp Delta at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a trailer adjacent to the detention block, a professional staff procures and organizes books and other media for the prisoners at the base. These volumes are kept separate from the lending library for the base’s guards, interrogators, navy personnel, and their families.

From the sentencing hearing for Omar Khadr, the Canadian former child solider once held at Camp Delta, we know that during his captivity he read Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, Barack Obama’s Dreams of My Father, Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, as well as books from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and novels by Danielle Steel. From statements from the base’s public affairs officer we also know that Mauritania-native Mohamedou Ould Slahi's Guantanamo Diary, the first and only diary written by a still-imprisoned Guantanamo prisoner, is not available in the collection.

The library reminds us that the prisoners in Camp Delta are more than the details about their backgrounds that have appeared—redacted—in reports about judicial hearings at the base. They have hours every day that need to be filled by some balance of study, prayer, diversion, and contemplation. And the prisoners, like us, are readers.

—Christopher Sims


Additional photographs available on request.