For the first time in 26 years, a new library is opening in Rutherford County. But there’s something you won’t see there: books. Or, bookshelves. The Technology Engagement Center is designed as a trendsetting library that focuses on digital literacy, computing skills and “maker” spaces.
This library will have 3-D printers, video conferencing rooms and a recording studio. At the ribbon cutting on Wednesday, rows of new Mac computers still had the protective plastic on their screens, with some in their boxes awaiting the last few desks.
But county officials, who were excited to the point of tearful at times, said they couldn’t wait to show it off after more than 5 years in the making.
“There’s one thing I’ve been wanting to say since 2013, when we started this project: Welcome to the TEC!” was how committee chairman Gary Green ended his remarks Wednesday in front of a crowd of more than 100.
Officials say it’s one of just a few publicly funded all-digital libraries in the country. Although non-traditional, the center won the backing of local and state funds, plus private dollars.
Secretary of State Tre Hargett was on hand to admire the library, which he said should become a statewide model — and a place where other librarians visit to gain inspiration.
“I hope it’s many days that this building looks out at a parking lot and sees it full of people who are using this,” Hargett said. “I think this is how libraries and library systems ought to be forward-looking about how we better embrace technology.”
Librarian Kathleen Tyree will manage the center. She prefers to call it “shelf-less,” since books — in modern form — are here.
“We do not have physical books,” she said. “We have e-books, e-audio, but we don’t have shelves and shelves of books.”
And Tyree says the educational role of a library remains. The TEC was built in a corridor of Murfreesboro with the city’s greatest need for high-speed Internet.
One key service will be helping residents to apply for jobs online.
“We can teach people how to build a resume, how to hop on a site and apply for a job, and we’ll have more advanced and esoteric classes as well,” Tyree said.
Among those offerings will be computer coding and a virtual reality studio.
The Tech Engagement Center, which is located next to Hobgood Elementary school on Minerva Drive, opens to Rutherford County library cardholders on Aug. 1.