Access and Making Meaning

John Oliver, on Last Week Tonight, recently highlighted an often unaddressed aspect of library services to incarcerated people.  In an example that pales many mentions of what access to materials can mean for people who are imprisoned or maintained, Oliver highlights an individual formerly detained in Guantánamo discussing his experiences there.

Oliver is correct in mentioning that libraries in prison and detainment centers are considered ‘luxuries’ by many people (hinting that they are often used as a gesture toward reform), the words of this former detainee reflect the true value of library services to incarcerated and detained people.  He describes Guantánamo as equivalent to Azkaban, the prison in Harry Potter – a place where there is no possibility of feeling.

Watching this clip, I was struck by how access to materials can potentially assist people in understanding the worlds they inhabit (or have been forced to inhabit).  The full clip is available on-line at