Appalled by the possibility of three neighborhood libraries closing, Town of Tonawanda officials are lobbying county legislators to make sure they remain open.
A recent study commissioned by the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library suggested the system would better serve residents by consolidating branch libraries and closing 22 of them. Three of the branches identified as candidates for closing are in the Town of Tonawanda: Brighton, Kenilworth and Sheridan-Parkside.
"It's a very high percentage of closings in one town, if you ask me," Supervisor Carl J. Calabrese said. "It looks like the Town of Tonawanda is suffering more than its share."
"There are those who would say this fits in nicely with the concept of regionalism and that anyone opposed would be labeled provincial," Councilman Ronald H. Moline said. "I'm not sure who's behind this study, but they should have contacted local leaders."
Calabrese and the six Town Board members have decided to send a letter to County Legislators Lynn M. Marinelli and Charles M. Swanick voicing their opposition to closing more than half of the five libraries in town. The Kenmore branch would become a community library, and the Greenhaven branch would become a specialty library.
Legislators, along with the head of the library system, responded sympathetically Tuesday to town officials' desire to preserve the libraries. Nothing will be done, they said, until residents have had a chance to air their opinions.
"Consultant reports are not written into granite," Ms. Marinelli said. "I don't think you'd find a legislator among us opposed to libraries. We don't want to do something that sets something into motion that 10 years from now will make us say, 'What's going on?' "
Swanick emphasized that the report was only a starting point. He said he's concerned about some of the recommended restructuring, including closing the three Tonawanda libraries, but can't make any specific comments now.
"I can't say if it's a good idea or bad idea," he said, noting he has yet to read the complete 600-page report.
Tonawanda officials also complained that they learned details of the study in a Nov. 21 article in The Buffalo News.
Diane J. Chrisman, acting director of the library's board of trustees, said copies of the study were being mailed to local municipal officials.