Kanawha County downtown library branch marks 1 year since reopening

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston’s downtown library has celebrated its one-year anniversary of being open and operational ever since it went through renovations.

The largest library in West Virginia, the Kanawha County Public Library underwent a $32 million renovation project that began in June 2020. The library closed down in March of that year and was temporarily relocated to the Town Center Mall.

The library was reopened to downtown Charleston on May 9, 2022.

A few of the big changes for the multi-floor library were the addition of 20,000 square feet of new space as well as the Sky Bridge that goes across Quarrier Street.

Erika Connelly is the Director of the Kanawha County Public Library System. She said it’s been a very good first year back following the changes and improvements to the facility.

“The public’s response has been a little overwhelming,” said Connelly. “I feel like we’re about 80% of where we were prior to COVID, which I’m told is above the national average for libraries.”

Coming with the additional space at the library, Connelly said their new meeting rooms are getting used constantly by visitors.

“We had one public use room, now we have upwards of 20 in this building,” Connelly said.

With that additional space, Connelly said those in the library are using the building in more ways than one and not just for browsing books.

“We’re constantly seeing visitors using the library in a different way,” she said. “They’re treating the library as a community center or as an extended living room.”

Other changes for the library include handicap-accessible doors on both ends of the building as well as an art section which Connelly said is a brand new addition from the library foundation. The library also features a coffee shop, children’s area, and other conference and study rooms.