BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — For two months, Buffalo’s Central Library has been dealing with an uptick in physical and verbal fights from library guests. Central’s hours are temporarily reduced and library leaders are looking for solutions.

Those physical and verbal fights have broken out almost daily at downtown Buffalo’s Central Library. 

Buffalo and Erie County Public Library Director John Spears tells News 4, hundreds of teens gather at the 400,000 square foot building after school. 

Now the library is taking time to cool off and closing early at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, instead of 7 p.m. 

“When it grew beyond our ability to manage it in a way that we felt allowed people to feel welcome,” Spears said. “That’s why we did what we did.”

“A lot of it was verbal. There were verbal altercations. There were physical altercations. You know, we would have occasionally, small fights, we’d have brawls that involve 30 students.”

Library regulars and staff quickly became uncomfortable. The library employs security, in addition to two assigned Erie County Sheriff’s deputies. 

Ultimately, Spears decided it was best to reduce hours. 

He said that reduction is temporary as a plan forward is created. 

“The library belongs to the entire community. It doesn’t belong to one group of people, it doesn’t belong to just one age group. It belongs to everyone.”

The library is looking into upgrading security equipment and adjusting staffing levels.

In addition, the library is hammering out a contract with WNY Peacemakers to be on-site at Central and make connections with teens at the library. 

“We’re not interested in just pushing them out,” Pastor James Giles, coordinator, WNY Peacemakers said. “That’s the problem with institutions they’re always looking for a knee-jerk punitive response to the things they’re doing. We’re gonna engage them and bring them in, interest them in mentors.”

Pastor Giles said Peacemakers had a successful presence at the library more than a decade ago when Central was facing similar issues. 

“They must be occupied in some kind of way and we want to occupy them in a constructive way and there won’t be a need to be disruptive or out of hand and our Peacemakers will be dedicated to making that kind of peace down there,” added Giles.

Director Spears plans on creating a space for teens to gather in the library. 

That includes teen-specific programs to keep them occupied. 

Current programs scheduled after 3 p.m. will still be held as normal.

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Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.