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Staffing shortages at the Buffalo branch libraries could force reductions in summer hours this year, according to a top library official.

Unless Erie County allows the library to hire more personnel, the hours at seven of the 15 branch libraries will be reduced from the beginning of July through Labor Day, Donald H. Cloudsley, director of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system, said Thursday.

County Executive Gorski said he would review Cloudsley's request for more positions, but he made no promises. "I was not aware of their plans," Gorski said. "As you know, I am very solicitous of the needs of the library system. I will take a look at their requests, and within the constraints of our budget condition, try to honor them."

While the library plans aren't final, Cloudsley said he expects seven branch libraries to close one additional day a week, leaving them open four days instead of five.

Because three branch libraries already are operating less than five days a week, the reduction will mean only four of the city's branch libraries will remain open five days a week: Riverside on Tonawanda Street, Crane on Elmwood Avenue, Fronczak on Broadway and Dudley on South Park Avenue.

The reductions would not affect the Central Library downtown or the library's suburban branches, Cloudsley said.

The staffing problem in the branch libraries has resulted partly from a Gorski administration policy to cut spending by not filling vacant positions without permission from the budget office, Cloudsley said. Also contributing is the time it takes to find people for the positions the library has permission to fill, he said.

The library has a year-round staffing problem, but the situation is worse in the summer because of vacations, Cloudsley said.

The library's 1989 budget contained 54 full-time positions, Cloudsley said. About eight full-time positions and 20 part-time positions, are unfilled or will become vacant soon.

Also, the number of full-time positions has been cut in recent years. Four positions were eliminated between 1988 and 1989, Cloudsley said. In 1975, Buffalo's branch libraries had 80 full-time positions, he said.

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