The New State Library and Archives is the Facility Tennessee Needs to Preserve Our Past for Future Generations

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Preserving Tennessee’s legal and civic history and making our history accessible through the Tennessee State Library and Archives is not just our statutory responsibility. Rather, it is our honor to house our state government's history and collections from Tennessee families, churches, newspapers, businesses and organizations.

That is why we are excited to tell you about the new, state-of-the-art Library & Archives building on the northeast corner of the Bicentennial Mall at the intersection of Rep. John Lewis Way N. and Jefferson St. in Nashville, Tenn. The new facility will provide Tennesseans the opportunity to access and experience our state’s history like never before.

Our previous home on 7th Ave. N. opened in 1953 and is the oldest library and archives in the country that has not undergone a significant expansion or renovation.

The need for additional space and improved climate controls in our previous building was abundantly clear. We were using more than 99 percent of our available space to house our current collections and the 68-year-old structure did not have sufficient temperature and humidity controls to properly preserve the irreplaceable items in our collections.

In our old building, we were quickly running out of room to accept new documents of historical significance. As the repository for every Tennessee Governor’s papers, beginning with our first Governor John Sevier, we knew we would not have had space to accommodate the papers of our current Governor, Bill Lee.

In our new 165,000 square foot facility, the extra space and application of the latest technologies to improve efficiency will increase our capacity by nearly 40 percent from 542,700 to 759,500 items. This will allow us to continue to properly preserve our current collections and add to them for years to come.

The new building also has additional space to accommodate visiting researchers, scholars, historians, librarians, archivists, genealogists, lawyers and school groups. Our new reading room gives these visitors a comfortable, welcoming space to utilize the books, photos, maps, manuscripts and other historical documents in our collection. Plus, we have professional librarian and archival staff experts standing ready to assist.

In the past, we could not accommodate even a modest sized group which rendered our collections inaccessible to these Tennesseans. With our new classroom and meeting spaces, we can accommodate groups of up to 300. This will allow us to serve larger school and other groups who previously may have missed seeing our incredible historical resources. It will also enable the Library & Archives to serve as the state’s center of activity in the realm of education and training for historical groups, librarians and archivists and many others with whom we work.

Our professional staff experts will utilize the new facilities to teach and demonstrate to Tennesseans the best archival practices for preserving and caring for their community’s historical treasures. State-of-the-art conservation equipment including our new blast freezer, temperature-controlled vaults and large conservation lab will help preserve and save damaged materials for our collection and collections across Tennessee.

Accessibility is especially important because the Library & Archives serves as a resource for adults and children with disabilities through our Library for Accessible Books and Media and Early Literary Resource Center. Our new facility is fully ADA compliant and has many improvements, including convenient underground parking making our services more accessible for Tennesseans with disabilities.

The new building’s vastly improved climate controls will regulate temperature and humidity to maintain optimal levels preventing the degradation of the many rare items in our collection. The high-tech climate control systems will help us ensure that Tennessee’s history is preserved for future generations.

Most of our collection will now be accessible using a new high-tech Automated Storage and Retrieval System. This climate-controlled robotic system will allow for quicker retrieval of books and materials for our patrons and saved Tennesseans more than $50 million in storage space through increased efficiency.

We also worked to maximize the value of taxpayer dollars by making cost-conscious material choices. By choosing sensible, durable interior and exterior finishes, we reduced costs while giving Tennesseans a building that they can be proud of that adds to the beauty of the Bicentennial Mall.

Planning for this new facility began in 2005. We and our predecessors worked with Governors Bredesen, Haslam and Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly to turn these plans into reality. We are pleased to report that construction costs remained within budget.

To keep up with all the details about the new building and our virtual opening event, follow our TSLA Facebook: Tennessee State Library and Archives and Instagram: @tnlibarchives accounts and our Twitter account: @SecTreHargett.

The new Library & Archives opens to the public April 13, 2021, with limited capacity due to COVID-19 safety precautions. Email ask@tsla.libanswers.com to make an appointment.

We encourage you to plan a visit to your new Tennessee State Library and Archives to take advantage of our resources to deep and rich history of our great state.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett
State Librarian and Archivist Charles A. Sherrill