BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library will temporarily close to the public at 3 p.m. on weekdays “in an effort to safeguard library patrons and staff,” the library said in a statement.

The new hours go into effect on Friday, March 10.

Buffalo and Erie County Public Library Director John Spears said the library has seen “a drastic increase in the frequency and the severity of incidents” since the beginning of the year. He said the majority of those incidents — which included fights involving “up to 20 or 30 people” and cases where staff and members of the public were hit — occurred on weekday evenings.

“I really want to stress that this is not being done because of any one specific incident,” Spears said. “This is being done because we wanted to take action before something much more serious happened.”

Spears said the library will resume normal hours once library staff have implemented a strategy to keep the library safe, but he didn’t say specifically when that would be.

“We want this to be as painless and as brief as possible,” Spears said.

The library did see a reduction in incidents after implementing more after-school programming for teens. Spears said 60 to 80 students are involved in some of those programs.

The library has had discussions with Erie County government, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office and the Buffalo Peacemakers over the past weeks and months.

“We’re hoping that they can assist us in making sure that no one feels that they’ve been chased out of the library, but everyone feels that they are welcome and that they have a purpose here,” Spears said.

Tenants and organizations that use the library’s meeting rooms will be contacted by the library. Their use of the library will likely not be affected.

The Central Library was previously open until 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 5 p.m. on Friday. Weekend hours at the Central Library and hours at other Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries will remain unchanged.

The library system’s AskUs email service and telephone support line, which can be reached at 716-858-8900, will remain available during regular hours.