Mar/Apr
2016

Maude Finch Award Winner Audrey Betcher: Making a Difference at the Rochester Public Library

Written by Debi Neville
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Rochester Public Library Director Audrey Betcher receives the sixth annual Maude Finch Award for her impressive work improving lives in Olmsted County. The award is given by United Way of Olmsted County’s Women’s Leadership Council in recognition of a community woman whose service and achievements are outstanding examples of living united to advance the common good by giving, advocating and volunteering.

Audrey Betcher is a familiar face at the Rochester Public Library. A chat with Audrey reveals insights into what makes her one of the most important figures at the library and also in Rochester.

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

“I grew up in Stewartville, one of four children (including an identical twin sister) in a close-knit family. I received my undergraduate degree in English and Library Science from St. Catherine University in St. Paul and my master’s degree in library science from the University of Missouri-Columbia. I returned to the Rochester area in 1989 and began working for the Rochester Public Library in 1996.”

WHAT SPURRED YOUR INTEREST IN BECOMING A LIBRARIAN?

“I knew early that I wanted to be a librarian. I did my ninth grade career exploration paper on librarianship, and I interviewed former Rochester Public Library director Judith Keller Taylor for another high school paper. I became good friends with librarian Deb Rogne in Stewartville. Librarianship was a draw to me because it combined my love of learning with my need to make a difference.”

WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

“There are some pretty amazing things happening at the Rochester Public Library because of the innovative, collaborative, hardworking staff. The Wellness Corner, the Book Bike (2015 Local Government InnovationAward winner), Maker Spaces, mini-library program, Ready to Lead and so many more programs have been successful. 

The program closest to my heart is the Rochester Reading Champions (RRC) program. In 2012 a focus group discussed their vision for Rochester and how the library could help. We heard loud and clear: We had to be more proactive about basic literacy for adults and children. There is a strong correlation between low literacy, poverty and incarceration. We spent a year talking to the community, and the RRC program was created.”

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO RECEIVE THE MAUDE FINCH AWARD? 

“I am very humbled and honored to receive the Maude Finch Award because it spotlights collaboration for the common good and the long view. We recognize we must do better. There are so many visionaries, dreamers and out-of-the-box thinkers who are working together on systemic change that may take years to bear fruit. I am very fortunate to be in a position to be one of the collaborators.”

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS WE MAY NOT KNOW YOU ENJOY DOING?

“I am a baseball fan and I’ve visited 25 baseball stadiums. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) is my favorite place on earth.”

WHO WAS MAUDE FINCH AND WHAT IS THE AWARD ABOUT?

Maude Finch was the first recording secretary of Rochester Community Chest. In 1925, Maude donated her $20 paycheck back to the organization for "the common good." Established in 2009, the award is given to women of Olmsted County in recognition of those who make a difference and who "live united."

Rochester Women magazine received the Maude Finch Award in 2009. 

Debi Neville admires Audrey for her work and dedication. She sets a great example.