Willetta M. Grady, Librarian/Library Media Specialist, selected for the 2023 RUSA Exceptional Service Award
“Willetta Grady was selected as the 2023 winner of the Exceptional Service Award. She made noteworthy contributions to the community of the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville TN, as well as been actively involved in a variety of service efforts within her state. Willetta Grady has consistently provided high caliber leadership in user services for five years. She passionately advocates for literacy, life-long learning, skill improvement, and Inmates’ Rights. She dedicates her time and talents to educational enterprises, and she champions life-learning and reading. She not only has sought to transform library and reading spaces, but lives as well, through her initiatives to foster reading and access to information.” – Award Committee statement
Ms. Willetta Grady has orchestrated donations from surrounding community libraries to enhance library collections. The city of Brentwood donated a large portion of their reference books, elevating the collection to a prestigious level. The Westmoreland Public Library donated materials as well, including an encyclopedia set. The United States District court in Nashville transferred a large selection of federal law books that has assisted many inmates in creating and understanding the laws of their country.
Additionally, Ms. Grady continues to create a comprehensive collection of legal books for the inmates to use for their legal cases. Not only this, but she has also created a collection of reading books for inmates who experience challenges in reading. These books are comprised of various reading levels and content. Ms. Grady teaches reading to inmates who desire help with their reading skills.
Ms. Grady continues to champion reading and life-long literacy efforts. She teaches pre-service employees about inmates’ Rights including the right to access courts. She also spends time traveling to other Tennessee facilities to train newly hired librarians and the inmate library workers.
“Libraries evolve and grow as we grow in knowledge and self-awareness,” reports Ms. Grady, “Ms. G” to her library customers.
Professional Activities and Contributions:
-Advocate for literacy and life-long learning
-Educator, with emphasis on Inmates Rights
-Partnership and Collaboration within her institution to enhance learning experiences
-Collection development to support life-long learning, enrichment, and civil liberties
-User outreach and services for correctional center community
-Transforming spaces for safety, security, and reader access
-Creation of living history events.
Her education includes: Master of Education in Library Sciences, 2009-2011, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN; Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, K-8, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN.
Ms. Grady has been employed at CoreCivic – Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, Hartsville, Tn , in which she operates a library and provides services to an inmate population, provides legal library services, literacy services, educational programming, and supervises library volunteers. Additionally, she works as the contract librarian at the CCAA Metro County Detention Facility, Nashville, TN and CCA Trousdale County Detention, Hartsville, in which she supervises library aids, trains personnel, and manages library operations, as well as gathering data and creating quarterly reports for accreditation commission.
She has worked previously in a variety of educational settings within Tennessee and California and has been involved in leadership roles within the Tennessee Library Association.
The selection committee was Chaired by Adria P. Olmi. The Exceptional Service Award was previously awarded by ASGCLA.