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Library Circulation Halted as Budget Debate Continues

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library has been preparing for the worst. The "red" budget would shut down all branches by the first of the year. As of Tuesday, all circulation was halted.

Erie County residents can no longer borrow books or materials from library branches in the county. Library Director Michael Mahaney says he had no choice as they await a final budget deal. He says right now there are no assurances from the county that there would be sufficient funding for 2005.

"As of the close of business yesterday, we are no longer allowing people to borrow," Mahaney said. "A lot of people were maxing out their accounts, taking out everything they could get their hands on. It was a brisk day for circulation. Today is the first day we are no longer providing materials or allowing people to take them out of our building."

Mahaney says he has been in direct talks with several lawmakers, even earlier Wednesday morning, trying to provide information to crunch budget numbers. But Mahaney says even under a "green" budget, it would still mean some "hefty" cuts for the system.

"There would still be several millions dollars worth of cuts for the libraries in the green budget," Mahaney said. "So, we would have a scaled back operation. There would be reduced services and reduced hours throughout the system.

"In conversations I've had with legislators, they're looking for alternatives to that green budget that would enable libraries to stay open. I haven't had any encouragement that the library system we have today will remain in place in 2005."

If a red budget is adopted today, Mahaney says he needs to start issuing layoff notices and must advise workers on their benefits as they prepare a massive shut down.