TEL History

Let me tell you how the TEL got started, how it was dreamed up by Tenn-Share, and how it became a reality through the cooperation with Tenn-Share of TLA, FOTL and the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Tenn-Share History
1990 - Memphis Library Council forms OCLC Group Access Capability (GAC), laying the groundwork for the creation of Tenn-Share
1991– First draft of constitution formed by volunteer committee; approved by membership in 1992; amended in 1995 and 1998.

Purpose of Tenn-Share:

- seek funding for multi-type resource sharing projects in Tennessee

The results of a membership survey by Tenn-Share found that what we most wanted was statewide access to electronic databases, with subscriptions paid for by the state of Tennessee.

To help this become a reality:

1. Trial Access to Databases Project enables member libraries free access to many full-text periodical databases on a trial basis.  Trials were held in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999. (February – September)

2. May, 1997 Tenn-Share creates THE TENNESSEE ELECTRONIC LIBRARY: A Proposal For Delivering Information Resources to Local Communities

3. 1998 - Tenn-Share is asked to appoint a representative to the Tennessee Advisory Council on Libraries (TACL). The Vice President/President-Elect is appointed.

4. The Subcommittee on Electronic Databases of TACL works with Tenn-Share to prepare the TEL proposal for the State Librarian and Archivist to present to the Secretary of State.  The Secretary of State secures sponsors for bills in the House and Senate, which are passed in the spring of 1999.

5. 1999 - The Tennessee Electronic Library created by 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, TLA and the FOTL, succeeded in convincing local representatives and senators to vote for the creation of the TEL. Bills in both houses were approved unanimously.

Librarians and library users wrote letters, sent e-mails, made phone calls, did everything we could think of to contact our legislators and urge them to vote for the TEL bills. TLA Legislative Day focused on TEL. All library groups working together are responsible for the success of this effort. Because we all worked together, we have a Tennessee Electronic Library.

Until 2006, TEL provided citizens access to 18 databases that covered 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, Riley C. Darnell, Secretary of State.

In 2006, Aubrey Mitchell and Cathy Evans, serving as the co-chairs of the Tenn-Share TEL II committee, brokered an agreement to include Literature Resource Center in TEL using the NPR model to fund the database.  They contacted Tenn-Share member libraries throughout the State to contribute to the database so that all could have access. 

In 2006, Tenn-Share then spearheaded the effort to make TEL funding a number one priority for librarians to lobby the legislature.  With the help of a paid lobbyist, the battle was won and the legislature has allocated 1 million dollars per year to expand TEL.

Since the additional funds have been added, TEL has grown from a set of 18 databases provided by one vendor, to a resource of many databases provided by many vendors.

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

We are confident that TEL will continue to grow!

TEL History compiled by:
Penny Frere
Tricia Racke Bengel