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Library System to Host Statewide Conference Amidst Closings

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The embattled Erie County library system will host this year's state conference of the Library Association.

About 1,000 librarians from across the state will flood into downtown Buffalo on Wednesday. The annual event, which moves from city to city each year, features speakers and panel discussions on an array of topics. They'll be here to talk about best practices, the importance of libraries, and advocacy. Erie County Library Director Michael Mahaney says it is uncomfortable timing for Buffalo to be hosting the event.

"One of the first thoughts I had was how would we appear to the rest of the state, as we suffer through these budget cuts" Mahaney said.

Mahaney says the city selection was made long before anyone knew Buffalo would be in the midst of closing 15 libraries. But he expects his colleagues to be sympathetic and to perhaps offer helpful advice. Mahaney says the library system is working on some ideas of its own. He says re-use plans, including youth centers and reading rooms for many of the vacated libraries, are underway.

"We're looking at a lot of different options, both in the city of Buffalo and the suburbs," Mahaney said. "There isn't one plan for everybody. But we are really trying to find the best fit for every community."

And Mahaney says they aren't giving up on consolidated, replacement libraries. He says their budget request for next year includes a plan for $2 to $3 million of capital funding over each of the next four years. He says the money, if approved, would be used to build bigger, better libraries in some areas. They have in mind a more of a one-size fits all type design that could be more economically adapted.

"We would use some of these resources to design this optimal building, and then start to construct some in locations where we know we can provide better service through the consolidation of multiple branches."

Mahaney says they have had preliminary discussions with the staff of the County Fiscal Stability Authority about the new capital plan. But he acknowledged there was no capital money for 2005. So, he says there's still a lot of talking to do.