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Poloncarz to replace a third of central library board

A new wave of trustees will join the board of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library at a time when leaders of the countywide system are seeking to redefine how its 37 library branches are governed.

County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, who has opposed the proposal to create a new library district, plans to fill a third of the 15 seats on the library’s central board of trustees with new appointees. He called the nominees a “new generation of leadership.”

“These are people who actually use the library system,” said Peter Anderson, a spokesman for Poloncarz. “And they are individuals who will be strong proponents for the current system.”

The five nominees, expected to be approved by the Erie County Legislature next week, would fill two vacant positions on the board and replace three trustees whose terms have expired. They will join the central library board as it moves forward with a plan to create an independently elected board that would oversee all of the library branches and would replace the 23 boards that now have a hand in running the system.

How the new trustees will influence that plan is unclear. County Legislator Lynn M. Marinelli, who is chairwoman of the Legislature’s Community Enrichment Committee, said the nominees were asked during a committee meeting about the proposal, but several said they would need more information before commenting on it.

“My main goal is to work as part of a team to make sure the library has a sustainable future,” said Teresa Glanowski, a South Buffalo resident who is among Poloncarz’s nominees. “Whatever that might turn out to be.”

In addition to Glanowski, who is government affairs manager for Independent Health, the new library nominees include: Michael L. Amodeo, of Lake View, an attorney who ran for State Senate last year; Kathleen Berens Bucki, of East Amherst, a library media specialist who works as a substitute teacher; Kathleen E. Burd, of Kenmore, a school clerk who has worked to raise awareness of the Kenmore Library; and Rhonda A. Ricks, of Buffalo, president of Inclusion Development Associates Inc.

“We are certainly looking forward to having new people on the board who are interested in the library and the library system,” said Carol Batt, chief operating officer of the library system.

Batt said the library plans to do “intense education” sessions with the new board members once their nominations are finalized.

“We’ll want to bring them up to speed, not just about the special library district, but about what the library system currently is and where we feel we need to go,” Batt said.

Under the existing library system, local municipalities own most of the library buildings, and the county provides the bulk of the library funding each year. Oversight of the libraries is shared between the central board of trustees and the boards of 22 contracting member libraries.

The trustees have been working for several years toward the goal of holding a referendum to ask voters to create a special taxing district overseen by one board whose funding would no longer be controlled by Erie County lawmakers.

Poloncarz has opposed the proposal since he took office and has questioned the need for creating what he describes as a new layer of government to oversee the libraries. The plan would require action by the State Legislature in Albany before a public vote could be held.