In 1908, the Women’s Kanawha Literary Club appointed a committee to organize support for a public library in Charleston, WV. A year later, these efforts gave birth to the Charleston Public Library, which housed 1,200 volumes in the YMCA building on Capitol and Washington Streets.
Throughout the early years of its existence, the Library relocated to several sites in the city – to the former manse of the First Presbyterian Church on Quarrier Street in 1912, to the basement of the YWCA on Virginia Street in 1913, to a building on McFarland and Kanawha Streets in 1914, and to the Red Cross building on the levee in 1921. The Library finally found its first permanent home in 1926, establishing itself in the old Capitol Annex building on Lee Street.
In 1934, the Library renamed itself the Kanawha County Public Library and expanded service by introducing the Book Truck and Library. New bookmobiles were purchased in 1953 and 1990, and KCPL’s current Mobile Library first hit the road in 2010.
After more than 40 years in the old Capitol Annex, KCPL moved to a new home in 1967 – Charleston’s landmark downtown federal building on Capitol Street. The interior of the former post office and federal courtroom was extensively remodeled for library use and a sculptured fountain was added to the front of the building.
In the early 1960s, KCPL began the development of branch libraries to better serve Kanawha County. The first branch was added in 1963 in St. Albans, where local citizens had started a volunteer library in 1952. Other branches followed: Cross Lanes – 1976; Glasgow – 1976; Dunbar – 1977; Elk Valley – 1977; Sissonville – 1979; and Marmet – 1980. In 1988, the local library in Clendenin was added as a branch library, and the Riverside Public Library, located at Riverside High School, began service in the fall of 1999.
KCPL’s Reimagine Your Library project broke ground in 2020, 53 years after KCPL moved into the Capitol Street location. This $32 million renovation of the Library’s iconic downtown home will add 20,000 square feet of new space and completely renovate the original building. The facelift includes an open, flowing layout, an enlarged children’s floor, more study rooms and meeting spaces, a new technology center, and a covered walkway across Summers street. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2022.