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Atlanta's found one, and so has Cleveland.

Now Buffalo's chances of finding a new director for its 53-branch library system -- at a crucial turning point in the system's history -- are much better, library officials say.

That's why a nationwide search for the next director of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library was reopened last week after a four-month hiatus.

Since April, when the initial search was postponed for lack of qualified candidates, several other big-city systems with lucrative directorships -- including Atlanta and Cleveland -- have hired new leaders from the tiny national candidate pool, library consultant Ronald Dubberly said.

Now, with only San Antonio left among the major cities competing for top candidates, the Buffalo system could start the selection of a new director as early as late October or early November, said Dubberly, an Atlanta-based expert the county Library Board has hired to help in the search.

"Time has gone by, and there may well be more people out there ready to accept this position," Dubberly said. "There could be a new pool of applicants."

The new deadline for applications for the Buffalo post is Oct. 1.

Currently, the library system is being run by Diane J. Chrisman, former deputy director to Daniel L. Walters, who served as director of the system until late 1998 when he left to head the Las Vegas, Nev., library system.

Ms. Chrisman, an Orchard Park resident who worked her way up the system from a teen-age job as a library page, has been widely praised for her leadership since the beginning of the year. In April, the Library Board voted to raise her salary as interim director to $92,000 per year, making her compensation commensurate with the $92,000 to $100,000 library officials plan to pay the next permanent director.

But Ms. Chrisman, who has been asked publicly by some board members to take the permanent position of director, has declined in recent days to say whether she will seek the post.

The system is at a crucial crossroads in its history as officials prepare to bring before the public a plan to consolidate many small libraries around the county into major "hub" libraries surrounded by fewer smaller satellite libraries.

The system also is in the middle of a multiyear campaign to install top-of-the-line technology and Internet access at all 53 city and suburban branches.

But while library officials agree on the importance of finding the right person for the job, opinions are somewhat mixed on how best to do it.

"I don't know what to say about it, other than that we are exploring all options," said Rebecca L. Mahoney, chairwoman of the board.

Board member Daniel T. Roach said he would like to hear from Ms. Chrisman first, as to whether she would consider taking the job, before a national search is done.

"The degree of care and hard work she has put into the position seems to warrant consideration of her," Roach said. "I think the present administration, and particularly the present director, has done a remarkable job. Before we embark upon this search, I would ask that some consideration be given to making the interim director the permanent director."

Ms. Chrisman said she would express her views on the position soon to the board's executive committee in order to clear up any confusion about her intentions during the search process.

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