About the Tennessee Electronic Library

The Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) is a virtual library that you can access from your home computer, school computer lab, or smartphone – anywhere with an Internet connection.

Access to over 400,000 electronic resources including magazines, scholarly journals, podcasts, videos, e-books, test preparation materials, federal census records, Tennessee primary source materials, and more can all be found here.

All types of nonprofit libraries participate in TEL and benefit from the wide range of information TEL databases offer, including homework help to new readers, consumer health information, business resources, leisure reading suggestions, current event essays, academic and civil service test preparation help, and genealogy and family history sources.

Over 1.2 million searches are performed each month across the various TEL databases. Since 1999, the Tennessee Electronic Library has been dedicated to providing equal access to this expansive collection of electronic resources for all Tennesseans.

TEL saves individual libraries money by providing core reference materials, journals, newspapers and is of special benefit to smaller and rural libraries since they could not afford these databases on their own.

The Tennessee Electronic Library is made possible through funding provided by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. TEL is administered by the Tennessee State Library and Archives, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State, Secretary Tre Hargett.


The mission of the Tennessee Electronic Library is to provide convenient and equitable access to library and information resources for all citizens of Tennessee to enhance the quality of their everyday lives, the depth of their educational experience, and the economic prosperity of their communities.


The Tennessee Electronic Library began as a project spearheaded by the Tennessee Library Association and Tenn-Share, a resource sharing organization composed of over 450 libraries and information agencies of all types in Tennessee.

In May 1997, Tenn-Share published The Tennessee Electronic Library: A Proposal for Delivering Information Resources to Local Communities. In 1999, the Tennessee Electronic Library was created by the Tennessee Legislature. Rep. Matt Kisber (D) of Jackson and Sen. Ward Crutchfield (D) of Chattanooga sponsored the bills in the House and Senate respectively.

An intense lobbying effort on the part of the entire library community in Tennessee, especially Tenn-Share, the Tennessee Library Association (TLA), and Friends of Tennessee Libraries (FOTL), succeeded in convincing local representatives and senators to vote for the creation of TEL. Bills in both houses were approved unanimously. All library groups working together are responsible for the success of this effort. Because we all worked together, we have a Tennessee Electronic Library.

At its inception, the Tennessee Electronic Library provided access to 18 databases that covered a variety of subjects, including humanities, education, business, science, current events, art, politics, economics, social sciences, law, health, computers, environmental issues and general interest topics.

TEL was entirely supported by federal funds under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and administered by the Tennessee State Library and Archives, a division of the Tennessee Department of State. In 2006, Aubrey Mitchell, retired University of Tennessee Associate Dean of Libraries, and Cathy Evans, Director of Libraries for St. Mary’s Episcopal School, Memphis, Tennessee, serving as co-chairs of the Tenn-Share TEL II Committee, brokered an agreement to include Literature Resource Center in TEL and sought voluntary contributions to fund the database.

They contacted Tenn-Share member libraries throughout the state to contribute to the database so that all could have access. Tenn-Share was also instrumental in helping TEL to reach the long-time goal of securing recurring state funding.

In 2006, the Tennessee legislature allocated 1 million dollars per year to expand TEL. Since additional funds have been added, TEL has grown into a resource of 70 databases supplied by four vendors. In addition to the Gale collection of databases, TEL resources included the genealogy database HeritageQuest Online, PebbleGo, current issues of The Tennessean, the language learning platform Transparent Languages Online and World Book Encyclopedia.

In an effort to continue to expand the materials available through TEL, the Tennessee State Library has added Volunteer Voices, a statewide digital collection from Tennessee institutions, and the Tennessee Virtual Archive, a digital repository of Tennessee History and Culture, to the list of available TEL resources. Volunteer Voices, another Tenn-Share initiative, and the Tennessee Virtual Archive, a program of the State Library and Archives, provide Tennessee students with direct access to primary source materials documenting the state’s rich history.