10:06am: Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval

‘This is the vanguard of libraries’: Renovated downtown Charleston library opens to public

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Recently during a tour of the renovated downtown Charleston library, a donor asked library officials if the finished multi-million dollar project caught the library up with other facilities across the country or put the facility ahead of the pack in terms of technology and offerings.

Erika Connelly, the Kanawha County Public Library System (KCPL) Library Director quickly responded with the latter for the answer.

The library was officially reopened to the public Monday morning following a $32 million renovation, more than a decade after plans first originated to rebuild or renovate the library. The multi-floor branch now includes 20,000 square feet of new space and a Sky Bridge across Quarrier Street.

“All of us who call Kanawha County home, West Virginia home, Southern West Virginia home, Charleston home, we should be proud in the knowledge that this is truly cutting edge. This is the vanguard of libraries and something that will be an asset and treasure to our community for decades to come,” Tom Heywood, chairman and president of Kanawha County Public Library Foundation told MetroNews.

Tom Heywood

Heywood has been with the project since the campaign for change started in 2005, he said. There was about an eight-year hiatus in the project and the funding stream altered, he added. Over $24 million of the project was privately funded with some donors giving more than a half-million dollars.

Once the majority of the funding was secured, the library closed in March 2020 and construction began in June of that year. The downtown Charleston location moved temporarily to the Town Center Mall.

“It’s been long in the making but we could not be more proud and more excited about what the design team has come up with and what the construction team has built,” he said.

The first visitors of the library on Monday morning enjoyed all of its features including a tool lending library, Idea Lab, coffee shop operated by local business Mea Cuppa, an expanded Children’s area, additional public meeting space, conference and study rooms.

Connelly told MetroNews that the Idea Lab features 3D printing, robotics, video and sound recording, virtual reality technology, scrapbooking, and even sowing.

Erika Connelly

The tool lending library is available for patrons 18 years of age and older to borrow tools/equipment from the library. The area features everything from hammers to cement mixers but patrons must have or register for a KCPL card prior to borrowing a tool.

“This is one of only a handful in the nation where we can lend you small home improvement tools. Although our largest tool is cement mixer, if you need to do some patch jobs of work in the garden, we have the tool for you,” Connelly said.

During the grand reopening ceremony, Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, Kanawha County School Superintendent Dr. Tom Williams, and numerous KCPL board members gave remarks.

Members of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra also played inside following the ribbon cutting.

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