Sunday, November 27, 2022

The New Old Workplace

Some longtime readers will remember that I retired from the library system in Charleston, West Virginia, back in 2011. In the past few years, the library was extensively renovated and expanded, making full use of the central city lot on which it is located. For years, the plan was to build an entirely new facility, but over time the idea of renovating the existing building became more practical. And I think the result is even more exciting than a new building would have been.

We spent yesterday afternoon and evening in Charleston, with three goals in mind. One of them was to finally visit the "new" library. And the first thing that struck me when we entered the building was the light. It is so bright, really making full use of the huge original arched windows that were refitted with energy-efficient glass.

The second thing was the openness of the space. Gone were the tall dark shelves, the stuffy overcrowded reference area, the dark corners. Gone too were most of the staff I once knew,  only to be expected after 11 years. But friendly, professional faces greeted us wherever we roamed in the building.

The library has 2 cool new things: a coffee shop and a tool library. We stuck our heads in the coffee shop to just appreciate the aroma and the view from the large glass windows.

We missed the tool library, but maybe we will see it whenever we visit again.

The children's department is a joy to see, bright and spacious and colorful. Darlene, a staffer I did know from all those years ago, gave me the biggest hug and showed me around.

The sensory room was amazing, a place for mothers to take children to breastfeed, or to simply calm down. It gets a good bit of use.

This beaded curtain is actually lights that change soft colors, and the panel below has a surprisingly calming effect on children. They can roll the colored beads with their hands. It is lighted behind, very pretty.

Darlene was especially excited about the mobile kitchen the library now owns, which is used for cooking programs as well as for offsite events.

One of the most needed renovations was a skywalk to a parking garage across the street. Parking was always a huge issue, and while people probably still complain about paying for parking,  the access to the garage is a great help. What downtown library, in a capital city, doesn't have paid parking anyway?

A mural in the stairwell.

Glass, glass everywhere.

I wish we had been there on a day when the usual staff were on hand so I could see the ones I knew, but perhaps we will get back down there before too long. It certainly is a beautiful place to visit, just to enjoy being there. 

I must admit, I am so glad I left before this project started. As facilities manager, I can only imagine what my responsibilities would have been---and I would probably still be trying to figure out all the cool new technology implemented in the new systems!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


  1. What a great new space for the library! So happy to see all the improvements, while utilizing the wonderful windows.

  2. A nearby small city had a similar situation, modifying or replacing a historical (and small) library. They did a LOT of fundraising, and the chosen design ultimately incorporated the original library in a very useful way, but added a much larger building of a very different architectural style with an entrance on a different street. The first time I visited, I really had a hard time remembering how the original building used to look! The original fireplace was the thing that finally anchored me in space :)


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