Created: July 21, 2021 06:03 PM
(ABC 6 News) - After more than two decades at the helm of Rochester Public Library, Director Audrey Betcher is retiring.
Betcher has spent almost 25 years on the RPL team, with 21 of those years spent leading the organization.
She says the pandemic gave her a new perspective on what she wants to do in the coming years. “I’m ready to spend time with family and friends, and do more traveling and exploring,” she says, adding, “I also have a few volunteer opportunities to keep me busy.”
While working her full-time job, Betcher has been serving as a tutor with the Rochester Reading Champions program and as President of her Rotary Club.
Library Board President Antinea Ascione says Betcher is credited with guiding the library through significant changes over the last few years, earning the organization local, state, and national recognition. “Audrey is committed to serving the community by listening, learning, and taking action, all while keeping her large team focused on the overall library mission,” explains Ascione.
When Betcher started at RPL as the Assistant Director in August of 1996, libraries across the nation were grappling with how technology might change community needs. According to Betcher, “We were still loaning out VHS tapes, audio cassettes, and vinyl records in 1996.”
As the library’s collection changed, so did the organization’s role in the community. “Libraries were primarily focused on being repositories for books in the 1990s,” says Betcher. “We know today’s library serves a much broader purpose as a community gathering space and connector of people.”
In 2012 RPL began shifting more energy into programming efforts, following a community-guided strategic planning process. “We gathered input from community partners and developed a robust programming plan,” explains Betcher. The resulting plan led to sweeping changes in library program offerings, with a focus on literacy.
“Rochester Reading Champions is a direct result of our ‘big shift,’” says Betcher, adding, “Without a major swerve in our operations, RRC wouldn’t exist.” RRC is a literacy intervention program with overwhelmingly positive results.
The library’s latest strategic plan is also generating a swerve, as the organization works toward furthering their goal of building equity in the community. Betcher says the RACE exhibit in 2010 was a catalyst for the library’s equity and inclusion work.
Ascione says Betcher’s leadership during the last decade, especially her commitment to meeting the needs of the community, was critical to the library winning the 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Services. “Audrey listened to the community, listened to her team, and built strong partnerships to execute our strategy, with strong emphasis on increasing and advancing equity efforts,” says Ascione. “Through those partnerships the library fostered a welcoming environment, often giving underrepresented members of our community a place to belong.”
Betcher contends that libraries are one of the last places where “people from all walks of life can converge and share ideas.”
Her official retirement date is early 2022 and Zelms says the library board’s personnel committee is working with City HR and Administration to “assure a successful recruitment and hiring process for this key position.”
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