On April 20, the American Library Association announced that Macon County’s Willetta Grady was selected as the 2023 winner of the exceptional service award for noteworthy contributions to the community at CoreCivic’s Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC) in Hartsville.
Grady, who began working as the media specialist at TTCC five years ago, was recognized for arranging donations to the prison library, which doubled its amount of books within a five-year span, taking the library’s collection from 6,000 to 12,000 books.
According to CoreCivic, when Grady first began her position at the prison, the shelves of the TTCC library were half-empty and contained many books of little value to the inmates. She, then, set out to create one of the best correctional institution libraries in the country.
“I received my master of education degree in library sciences in 2011,” said Grady. “My first job was part time at Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) Metro Davidson Detention Center in Nashville. The librarian there taught me everything I needed to know about prison libraries.”
As a librarian in the correctional system, Grady knows that she is changing lives by helping inmates find books on self-improvement and legal services and assisting them in preparation for the high school equivalency exam.
“The job of a librarian is to provide resources to engage the minds of its patrons,” said Grady. “I provide books for the inmates to read. I teach reading skills to illiterate inmates. I supervise inmate workers who, in turn, provide library and legal services to the general and segregated populations. The library and education department (at the prison) work together to prepare inmates for their HiSet (GED, general education development) test.
“Inmates who come to the library are those who wish to better themselves. I help by listening and guiding (them) to resources for reading and legal services. The library is open for inmates to use computers to do their legal work for court (and) provide resources for legal questions.”
Grady’s work has not gone unnoticed by Trousdale Turner Correctional Center Warden Vince Vantell, who said that the facility is fortunate to have her.
“I noticed when I arrived a few months ago as the new warden at Trousdale Turner that the library stood out as a tremendous resource for those in our care,” said Vantell. “Ms. G is a very special person, and we are very lucky to have her as our librarian.”
Looking back at her years of hard work, Grady voiced her hopes for the lives of those she serves.
“I hope and pray that each inmate that steps back into society becomes productive and leads a good life,” said Grady.
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