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The challenge of shaping a massive plan to streamline Erie County's public libraries has led Diane J. Chrisman, interim library director of nearly a year, to decide she will seek the permanent post this fall.

Ms. Chrisman, who took over leadership of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library in late 1998 after the previous director left for a job in Las Vegas, announced Thursday that she will add her application to those submitted by candidates from around the nation.

"This whole plan has been a big part of our lives here. I feel very committed to it," said Ms. Chrisman. "I would like to see it through."

Library Board officials are conducting a nationwide search for candidates for the post of director of the 53-branch system, a job that will pay between $92,000 and $100,000 annually. Deadline for the search is Oct. 1.

Rebecca Mahoney, chairwoman of the board, would not say whether any firm applications have yet been received by the board from the nation's notoriously small pool of library administrators. However, she said the board had been notified of a "couple of possibilities" by Ronald Dubberly, the Atlanta-based consultant hired by the system to guide the search.

Ms. Mahoney would not comment on Ms. Chrisman's candidacy, other than to say the interim director would be subject to the same interview procedures as other candidates.

Earlier this month, library officials reopened the director search, which had been put on hold in April after the candidate pool dwindled to one. The hiatus was recommended by Dubberly, the consultant, in order to allow a few other big cities around the country -- such as Atlanta and Cleveland -- to find library directors first, leaving the field open for Buffalo.

Currently, the only other major city in the United States looking for a new director is San Antonio, Dubberly said.

The local library's search comes at a crucial time in the system's history, as officials are faced with shaping and adopting a 600-page "strategic plan" that will guide Erie County's libraries well into the next century. Other major issues, such as the formation of a single hiring authority and the streamlining of library services, are also on the system's table at present.

Ms. Chrisman, an Orchard Park resident, said she decided over the past few months that she wants to be the one to put those changes into effect.

"I have strong feelings that we'll be able to accomplish these things," she said.

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