Sept 2016 Update

Library board continues comprehensive query into space issues

As the Rochester Public Library continues to deal with space constraints, the Library Board continues to search for the “best possible solution.”

2015RPL-Blue-Ribbons“We’ve spent years looking for ways to keep up with community demand,” says Library Board President Lou Ohly, adding, “As Rochester continues to grow, we need to find the best possible solution for any future demand.”

In 2012, the library board adopted their strategic plan, with a major goal of building infrastructure to meet community needs. According to Ohly, the plan was written with community input and updated in 2015, also with community input. “During both of our community input sessions we heard that space is important, as the rest of the plan depends on it,” Ohly emphasizes.

On Wednesday, the Library Board discussed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the University of Minnesota-Rochester, Minnesota Children’s Museum-Rochester, and the Rochester Family YMCA. The MOU calls for the four groups to explore the possibility of a shared space downtown.

“As with other ideas brought forth, we will consider all options along the way,” says Ohly, adding, “The proposal presented earlier this year has been the best possible solution so far, but that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped looking.”

Earlier this year, Library Director Audrey Betcher presented a $55-million expansion to the city council, with energetic community support


. The proposal called for two additional floors at the current location, with an improved entrance and an intentional design to meet programming needs.

As questions remain about how to meet community demand, Betcher says the Library Board keeps an open mind. “The Board is doing their due diligence, as the future of the library building and location rests in their hands.”

The Library Board’s responsibilities are spelled out under the Home Rule Charter, which states the board has “control and responsibility for the library building.”

At Wednesday’s meeting board members did not vote on the MOU, but will reexamine the proposal in September.


May 2016 Update

Officials at the Rochester Public Library say work continues on a proposed expansion, as space continues to be an issue.

In March, the Rochester City Council showed their support for the library’s proposed expansion at a committee of the whole meeting, telling Library Director Audrey Betcher the city will back the project if she can secure additional funding.

“This project needs to be a complete partnership,” says Betcher, “and the largest partner, the city, has already stepped forward. Now we will continue talking with other partners: Olmsted County, DMC, and community donors.”

2015RPL-Program-AttendanceLast month, Betcher made an initial presentation to Olmsted County Commissioners, where questions were raised about the proposal and the overall cost. According to Betcher, the proposed county portion is $6.3 million, or about 12% of the overall cost. “We used the county’s annual operating cost support as a guide for what we’re asking for. The 12 percent is in line with how much the county pays annually for library service.”

Olmsted County has a long history of supporting the library financially, with the first documented payments dating back to the early 1900s.

Throughout the spring months, Betcher says she will keep talking to county officials and keep focusing on how to solve the library’s problem of not having enough space. “The library is busy and will continue to be busy,” she says, adding, “so we will keep working to provide the Rochester-area community the space it needs for library service.” 

Expanding and renovating the library has been part of the library’s strategic plan since 2012, when a group of community members and leaders took part in RPL’s long-range planning process. “Four years ago we heard what the top needs were in Rochester, and we shifted how we do business,” explains Betcher. “Once we started intentionally working to meet those needs, we saw an increase in visitors, program attendance, and now we’re at a point where we’re hearing stories of impact.”




On Monday, March 14, city council members tentatively approved commiting $35 million toward a $55 million expansion project at Rochester Public Library (RPL). The next step is to seek funding from Olmsted County, DMC and other sources (individual donations, grants, etc.).

To continue moving forward, the library needs a commitment from Olmsted County for $ 6.3 million. This is 12% of the overall project cost and is in line with the county’s annual allocation to the library.


You asked, we listened

Rochester Public Library (RPL) has a 150-year history of responding to the changing needs of our community. In response to community input gathered in 2012, the Library increased and enhanced services and programs, resulting in a dramatic increase in program attendance.

LibraryStatsGraphic2016Old issue, new problem.

In 1995, due to a reduction in construction funding, the Library’s square footage was reduced by over 11,000 square feet. Additionally, the library service population and collection have exceeded projections made over twenty years ago.

The 21st Century Library for a vibrant city.

The role of a community library continues to evolve. Without enough square footage, programs compete for space on a weekly basis, preventing the Library from meeting public demand.


After a full examination of other options, Library officials determined the most cost-effective solution is a $55 million renovation and expansion of the current building. RPL is exploring funding options through City of Rochester, Olmsted County, Destination Medical Center (DMC), and philanthropic gifts from foundations, corporations, and individuals.




• Provide a Youth Floor for children and teens.
• Utilize flexible and balanced (quiet/loud) space for programming, collaboration, and engagement. 
• Connect varied generations, ability levels, and cultures in new ways. 
• Strengthen the community with information and technology. 
• Spark imagination and innovation through new opportunities.




There are many ways to show your support!

Ask your County Commissioner to support the Library expansion. Key points to highlight:

• The Minnesota Children’s Museum Smart Play Spot, which sees over 3,000 visitors a month, is too small to accommodate visiting classes of preschoolers, limiting the library experience for these young visitors.
• Homework Help, which is held four nights a week during the school year meets in a room down a back hallway, far from Youth Services collections and computers.
• Program attendance has increased 1056% at the library over the last 20 years, with much of that growth happening in the last five years.
• The building was designed as three floors, but budget cuts left the library under-sized from the beginning. Two more floors will allow the library staff to meet current and future needs.
• TeenScape is often overcrowded and the teen collection overflows available shelving.
• RPL’s MakerSpace, when compared to peer libraries, grossly lacks size, technology, equipment, and ongoing resources to allow for public innovation.







Stephanie Podulke 1st 507 282-2752   One 11th Ave. NW
Rochester, MN 55901 
Ken Brown 2nd 507 288-7134 3225 Cassie Ln SW
Rochester, MN 55902
Paul Wilson  3rd 507 288-5204 1204 5th St SE
Rochester, MN 55904
Matt Flynn 4th 507 533-8758 6311 105th St SE
Stewartville, MN 55976
Jim Bier 5th 507-282-9162 5945 60th Ave NW
Oronoco, MN 55960
Sheila Kiscaden 6th 507 287-6845 724 11 St SW
Rochester, MN 55902
Lou Ohly 7th 507 259-8217 5823 River Ridge Ct NE
Rochester, MN 55906

* Find your County Commissioner at


Show your support by writing a letter to the editor at the Post Bulletin