The Kanawha County main library will move into the Charleston Town Center mall while its existing Charleston location is expanded and renovated.
The county library system revealed the plan at a Tuesday morning news conference, next to the Starbucks at the mall’s Center Court.
The library’s location, at the corner of Capitol and Quarrier streets, is expected to close in June for work to begin, according to a proposed timeline. It’s scheduled to be in the mall from then until the downtown branch reopens in February 2022.
Monika Jaensson, president of the library system’s board, said the temporary location represents about $1 million of the $32 million total Charleston library expansion and renovation project.
“We anticipate that, during the 18-20 months that we’ll be here in the mall, our traffic will increase,” she said. “It makes sense: The mall’s built-in traffic will help the library, and the library’s patrons will mean more traffic for the mall and its stores.”
But no one said Tuesday exactly where in the mall — which has financially struggled and has vacant storefronts — the library will go, other than that it will be on the second floor.
Jaensson said the location is still being finalized.
Early last week, board members approved authorizing Jaensson and interim library system director April Wallace to finalize and enter into a rental agreement for a temporary location.
But board members discussed the issue behind closed doors — keeping private the location and possibly any details of, or issues surrounding, the lease.
Board Vice President Ben Thomas said right after the vote that temporary-space negotiations were ongoing but that the vote authorized the library leaders to sign a lease consistent with what was presented in closed session.
George Manahan, owner of the Charleston-based Manahan Group that’s doing public relations for the library project, said Tuesday the temporary space will be about 16,600 square feet.
“We understand there are several locations on the second level,” Manahan said. “And next week or so they’ll negotiate ... the exact location.”
The library will take up at least a couple of spaces in the mall. He said “one location will be administrative, the other one is going to be where the books are.”
Lisa McCracken, the mall’s marketing director, said the library system already knows which spaces it’s going to occupy but requested they not be announced yet.
“I think, at this point, there’s still some work that needs to be done and some rearranging,” McCracken said.
“Currently, some of the spaces being considered are vacant, and some are not,” she said.