NASHVILLE, Tenn. – April 21, 2023 – Just in time for National Library Week, celebrated this year April 23-29, Ms. Willetta Grady has been selected as the 2023 Winner of the Exceptional Service Award by the American Library Association for noteworthy contributions to the community at CoreCivic’s Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC) in Hartsville, Tennessee.
Thanks to generous donations from local libraries, and even the United States District Court in Nashville, Ms. Grady helped orchestrate and double the number of books in the TTCC library collection from 6,000 to 12,000 in five years.
The City of Brentwood’s public library in Williamson County donated a large portion of their reference books, elevating and expanding TTCC’s collection. Westmoreland Public Library in Sumner County donated materials as well, including a much needed encyclopedia set. The United States District Court in Nashville transferred a large selection of federal law books that are available to assist inmates in understanding the laws of their country.
“She [Ms. Grady] not only has sought to transform library and reading spaces, but lives as well, through her initiatives to foster reading and access to information,” said the American Library Association Award Committee upon her selection.
Ms. Grady, or ‘Ms. G’ to many, began working at CoreCivic as the Library Media Specialist at TTCC five years ago, where she operates the library and provides services to the inmate population, legal library services, literacy services, educational programming, and supervises library volunteers.
When she first arrived, the library shelves were half-empty and housed books of little value to residents. She knew she had work to do, and set out to create one of the best correctional libraries in the country – and she’s not done yet.
Ms. Grady continues to compile a comprehensive collection of legal books for inmates to use in their legal cases, and she passionately advocates for life-long learning and inmates’ rights.
A champion of literacy, Ms. Grady is curating a collection of elementary and middle-school level reading books for inmates who experience challenges with reading. She also teaches reading to inmates who are illiterate and assists those who want to boost their reading skills.
“Trousdale Turner’s library now offers books that have a purpose and will help even more residents be successful,” reports Ms. Grady. “Libraries evolve and grow as we grow in knowledge and self-awareness.”
Ms. Grady has held leadership roles within the Tennessee Library Association and earned her Master of Education degree in Library Sciences in 2011 from Middle Tennessee State University.