Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Jail librarian takes county’s retirement buyout offer

Joan Deacon lauded for her service to the correctional facility

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Joan A. Deacon, the librarian for the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Clarksburg, retired last week, taking the early retirement incentive offered by the county.

She is one of 152 county workers who took the $25,000 buyout, including 21 Montgomery County Public Libraries employees.

About 60 of the county positions will be abolished.

In addition to Deacon, branch managers taking the incentive are Maria Pedak-Kari of the Germantown Library, Lillian Snyder of the Gaithersburg Library and Keith Fleeman of the Little Falls Library in Bethesda.

The county does not have a timeline for hiring new managers.

Deacon, of Frederick, worked at the Damascus Community Library for 16 years before accepting the job as librarian of the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville in 1994.

She moved to Clarksburg when the jail moved there in 2003.

‘‘I think having a library in the jail is the best place to have a library,” Deacon said. ‘‘People who are incarcerated are most in need of some help and some new ideas. You have people who are in the process of re-examining their lives.”

Suzy Malagari, deputy warden in charge of programs and services, said that Deacon had a true heart for her job and did everything she could above the call of duty to help the inmates.

‘‘We were happy to have her as long as we did,” Malagari said.

Deacon said she had been considering retirement for more than a year and accepted the county’s retirement incentive. The county initiated the program to help address its budget shortfall.

Deacon said the money was not critical to her decision to leave the library system, but she thinks it is a nice bonus.

‘‘I feel that my work was definitely done,” she said. ‘‘I feel I’m leaving it in good shape.”

The 2,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art library holds more than 20,000 books.

She received the American Jail Association’s Civilian Employee of the Year award in May 2007 for being committed to the notion that libraries can inspire inmates to strive for a better life after they are released.

Deacon wrote an article for the SeptemberŽOctober 2006 edition of ‘‘American Jails,” the official magazine of the jail association, detailing the success of the county jail’s library. In the article, she urged other jails to establish better libraries.

Arthur Wallenstein, director of the county Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, had described Deacon as a unique individual.

‘‘I was delighted [she won],” Wallenstein said last year when she received the award. ‘‘Joan is a thorough professional who has been a mainstay in creating and conducting correctional library programs for many years in Montgomery County Corrections. In 30 years as director and warden, I’ve never worked with a finer professional.”

Staff Writer Patricia M. Murret contributed to this report.