NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Everyone has a story, and books tell all sorts of tales. How many came to fill the shelves at the Tennessee State Library and Archives is a story worth telling too.

The first chapter of the library’s existence begins with the main character, Return Johnathan Meigs III.

“They named, as the State’s first Librarian, a fellow named Return Jonathan Meigs III,” said Myers Brown, Director of Archival Collection Services for TSLA.

Brown, the gatekeeper to the historical archives, has rare access to Meigs’ vision.

“It’s pretty unique. to think, you know, this is where we – this whole organization began,” he said while touching a book. “Yeah, with this right here.”

The book is the first catalogue of our state library that was originally house in the State Capitol Building. It was created by the legislature to provide a reference place for the Tennessee General Assembly.

“They paid him $500 a year and gave him $5,000 to create the library, which in 1854 was a significant amount of money,” said Brown.

Meigs’ efforts are documented in the ledger and preserved as a record of his works of all kinds.

“I desire to discharge this duty so as to encourage future legislatures to follow this example and gradually increase the collection,” said Brown.

The ledger included meticulous details like the drawn plans for the library and the expenses.

While Meigs’ chapter is closed, it still brings history to life through technology in a public building that embraces the past and continues his forward-thinking vision.

“That’s what we still try to do. Preserve our collections so that they’re here not just for Tennesseans today, but for Tennesseans 150, 200, 300, 400 years from now,” said Brown.

The library is located on the Bicentennial State Mall Park. You can request a guided tour Tuesday thru Friday from 8am to 4:30pm. Email to schedule a group tour.