Frequently Asked Questions for this Division

Accessible Books & Media

  • How do I get the books?

    All special library materials--books, magazines and playback equipment--are circulated through the mail postage free. Patrons must borrow books each year to remain eligible for the service.

  • How do I play the talking books?

    Special playback equipment is loaned to patrons who use the library service. Books and magazines in the TLABM collection are recorded at a slower speed than conventional recordings and the books require special players. Players are mailed to patrons postage free. The library repairs and replaces equipment as necessary. For patrons who wish to purchase their own equipment, a vendor list is available.

  • How do I start the service?

    You must first complete an application for service and send it to the Tennessee library. All states provide the service for their residents.

  • What is provided?

    The library service loans recorded, large print and braille books and magazines, music scores in large print and braille and special playback equipment. The TLABM book collection of over 50,000 titles includes popular fiction and nonfiction, best sellers, classics, history, biographies, religious literature, children's books and books in foreign language. There are over 70 popular magazines available. Go to Available Materials to find out more.

Archives Development

  • How can TSLA help if you find lost or stolen public records?

    Tennessee has a replevin law that provides for the restoration of alienated public records to their rightful custodians. Law enforcement authorities can reclaim these documents without any compensation to the would-be private owner. Contact TSLA if you have knowledge of the whereabouts of misplaced public records, or if you would like to report a lost or stolen public record. We can offer advice on how to proceed. We generally advise callers to contact their county attorney, county sheriff, or county archivist, depending on the unique circumstances of each county. Even though it is up to law enforcement authorities to prosecute theft, we have been able to aid several Tennessee counties in recovering their lost or stolen public records.

  • What can you do to avoid buying and selling public records?

    f you are a document collector, dealer, or staff member at an archives, library, historical society, or museum, you can:

  • Why are public records stolen?

    Sometimes, collectors like to obtain records relating to, for example, Civil War history or African-American slavery. For more information about the nationwide interest in these items, see our article on "eBay Sales of Public Records."

    In some cases, well-meaning citizens have "saved" their county records from destruction or neglect years ago. In other cases, county archives did not exist, and the records were long stored in private hands. Now, however, most counties have a safe place to store county records, and the items need to be returned to their proper location. Please contact TSLA if you need help getting in touch with the proper state or county official in order to return public records in someone's possession.

  • Why report Tennessee's lost public records?

    Staff members at TSLA's Archives Development Program will work with you to determine whether items are, indeed, government records that belong in a state or county archive. By avoiding the purchase of stolen records on eBay or through other auctions, you will ultimately save time, the loss of your money, and potential lawsuits. It will also ensure that we, as Tennessee citizens, continue to have access to the records of our own government.

Librarians & Archivists

  • Continuing Education for public libraries

    Public Library Management Institute
    The Tennessee State Library and Archives sponsors a three-year Public Library Management Institute for the directors of small and medium-sized public libraries or library branches who do not have MLS degrees and who manage libraries that are part of  the Tennessee Regional Library System.  The Institute focuses on management, leadership, and partnership skills and is intended to be an extension of the comprehensive training program provided by the Tennessee Regional Library System and appropriate training offered by private and government organizations.   Graduates receive Public Library Management Certification as provided by the Secretary of State’s office. 

    Other trainings for all library staff include Summer Reading conferences, TEL trainings, and various other topics as indicated every year.

    Contact Lauri Thompson, Continuing Education Coordinator,  for applications, additional information and questions.

Ordering Records

  • How do I find court records?

    The Tennessee State Library and Archives has copies of the court minutes for circuit, chancery and county courts in Tennessee. The document Courts Where Tennessee Court Cases Were Tried will explain which court heard a particular type of case during a specified time period. You may wish to check the Index to County Microfilm Reels or the Genealogical Fact Sheets About Tennessee Counties to see what records we have available for a specific county.

    The Library and Archives will, for a fee, search a five year date span in the indexed minutes from the County or Quarterly Court, Circuit Court, or Chancery Court. Please go to Ordering Records for instructions on ordering a court record.

    The records at the Tennessee State Library and Archives are open to the public. You are welcome to come in 8:00am - 4:30pm (Central Time) Tuesday through Saturday to search the court records yourself & make your own copies for research. Please see the Tennessee State Library and Archives Visitors Page for information on directions, parking, and holiday hours.

    Please note: Archival materials are available for retrieval between the hours of 8:00 am – 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. If you know you will need materials between 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, please call ahead to the Public Services section at 615-741-2764 or visit the Ask Us a Question! web page.  We will do our best to accommodate your request.

     

  • How do I find deeds?

     The Tennessee State Library and Archives has microfilmed copies of the deeds for every county in Tennessee. The deeds records are arranged by the name of the seller/buyer  (grantor/grantee).  We do not have a means to search for a deed record by knowing the area or longitude & latitude of the property. Information for ordering deed records can be found in Ordering Records.

    When a deed search is requested, we follow these procedures:

    • We locate the cumulative index (if available), usually in a book separate from the deed books. If there is no cumulative index, we use the index appearing in each volume of deeds.
    • We check to see if the index indicates the date of the deed. If it does, we search the portion of the index covering the dates requested for the name requested.
    • If the dates are not shown in the index entries, we determine which deeds books were in use during the dates requested in the search. For example: if the request is for a deed dated 1860-1865, and we find that Deed Book C covered 1856-1861 and Deed Book D covered 1861-1866, we would search that portion of the index that includes entries for Deed Books C and D.
    • Within the time period requested, we look for deeds matching the name of the person requested. Both grantor (seller) and grantee (buyer) indexes are searched. Deed indexes are not always completely alphabetized, but only grouped under each letter of the alphabet. For example: to locate deeds for Jasper Bates, we scan the entire letter & #8220;B” in the index.
    • If an entry matching the request is found, we copy the deed and mail it to the client.
    • If more than one matching entry is found, we copy the index pages containing them and mail them to the client, with instructions to select one to be copied at the standard fee.
    • If no related entry is found, we advise the client that the index was searched, indicating the dates covered by the search.

     Deeds are not always recorded in the year they are written, so a deed written in 1865 but not recorded until 1875 will not be located using this search strategy. We have no way of ascertaining whether a deed was recorded when it was written. Name of grantor is not always the expected name; some properties are sold by power of attorney, sheriff or court clerk to satisfy a legal judgment, so the deed would be indexed under the name of that person.  

     

    Please note: Archival materials are available for retrieval between the hours of 8:00 am – 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. If you know you will need materials between 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, please call ahead to the Public Services section at 615-741-2764 or visit the Ask Us a Question! web page. We will do our best to accommodate your request.

  • How do I find divorce records?

    You can find information about divorce records in our Guide to Vital Records.

  • How do I find marriage records?

    You can find information about marriage records in our Guide to Vital Records.

  • What is TSLA Record Certification?
    • If needed, the Library and Archives can certify a copy of a record held in our collection.  There is a fee of $5.00 to certify one copy of the document, in addition to the initial search fee. If you wish for more than one copy of a record to be certified, each additional certification is $5.00.
    • If you think certification may be needed, please indicate this when the initial copy order is placed, as we cannot certify after-the-fact any copies that have left our facility.  We cannot certify copies of items that we have not copied ourselves.  If you decide at a later date that you need items certified that you have already received, we will have to charge you for the order a second time and re-copy all the materials.
    • The Library and Archives cannot certify electronic copies (scans) of documents.
    • If you pay in advance for a record search and certification and the record is not located, neither the search fee nor the certification fee are refundable.  For this reason, when searching for a record that you wish to have certified, the Library and Archives suggests that you use our downloadable forms and pay by credit card.  If you pay by credit card and a record is not located, then you will not be charged the additional $5.00 certification fee.

Visitor Information

  • COVID-19 Policies

    Per state and local guidelines, face coverings are now optional for the public and staff. Staff will continue maintaining the recommended six feet distance when interacting with visitors. 

  • Our Commitment to Diversity

    Commitment of Respect

    The staff of the Tennessee State Library and Archives affirms its ongoing dedication to treating all people with respect and dignity. Libraries and archives have a long history of working to provide equal access to resources and services for all communities. We also recognize our duty to achieve an archival collection that reflects the experiences of Tennessee’s diverse population from urban to rural, farm to factory, and across the demographic spectrum. We acknowledge that our work in this area is never complete and remain available to community partners from every part of our society. We will continue to apply the highest standards of professionalism and respect in our work as we welcome visitors and develop new ways for Tennesseans to access information and interact with their historical records. As individuals we stand with all persons seeking justice and an end to any discriminatory practice that undermines the value of human life.

  • Parking at the Library & Archives

    The Library & Archives provides free patron parking in its garage. To access the garage, patrons must obtain a library card at the first-floor receptionist desk.

    First-time patrons may temporarily park in the parallel street parking on Rep. John Lewis Way N. After receiving an activated library card from the security receptionist, patrons should move their vehicles to the garage via the ramp on Jackson Street/Junior Gilliam Way.

    On weekends, visitors may also park free in the state employee parking lots around the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park.

  • Registration and Security

    All Library & Archives patrons are required to present a state or federal ID card (such as a driver's license) prior to entering the Reading Room. Patron library cards provide access to the second floor Reading Room.

    Briefcases, bags, totes, purses, and notebooks are subject to examination by a staff member when entering or leaving the Reading Room.

    Lockers are available for patrons to store belongings during their visit. The Library & Archives is not responsible for any personal items left unattended. Visitors using original manuscripts will be required to leave their belongings in a locker. 

    Backpacks must be stored in a locker. If a backpack is too large to fit in a locker, then it must either be locked in the patron's vehicle or stored in the main lobby while using Library & Archives materials.