D.C. public library director Hardy R. Franklin, facing an upsurge in break-ins and thefts at the system's branch facilities, has appealed to the city for $125,000 to improve security and repair damages caused by the thieves.

Franklin said yesterday there have been a total of 110 break-ins involving the system's 24 neighborhood branches since January 1981. There were 22 in February and three last month. In the past, he said, there have been only a few break-ins a year.

Franklin said the thieves usually force their way into the libraries by either breaking windows or doors. He said most of the thefts involve small amounts of money taken from photocopier machines or from the cash drawers librarians use to make change for overdue fines.

"They're not stealing books," he added somewhat ruefully.

City burglary detective Esther Dimery said the biggest reported theft has been $24. She said the police are uncertain whether the crimes are being carried out by juveniles or adults. The only recent arrest involved two adult men who were caught inside the Washington Highlands branch, Franklin said.

Franklin said the major cost to the system has been the replacement of broken glass doors, some of which cost about $1,000, and the replacement of steel mesh and windows. The D.C. Council is expected to approve the funds later this month.