For the second time in four years, Rochester Public Library has been recognized for its innovative work.

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota has named the library as one of 19 winners of this year’s Local Government Innovation Awards. The annual award recognizes local governments in Minnesota for their efforts to deliver services with greater impact and lower costs.

The library was selected as one of the five awards in the city category for its Rochester Reading Champions program, a literacy intervention program aimed at helping underserved struggling readers in the community.

"Reading is such a critical life skill," program coordinator Gail Harris said. "Our passionate and dedicated volunteers are changing lives by providing individualized Orton Gillingham instruction. Student results reflect this intervention."

Youth students have improved, on average, by 2.6 grade levels in reading and 2.3 grade levels in spelling. Meanwhile, adult students have improved, on average, by 1.7 grades.

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According to Library Director Audrey Betcher, the program is innovative for several reasons.

"The program matches highly trained volunteers with under-resourced youth and adults," she said. "The free tutoring is offered to students at community locations they already frequent, which eliminates financial and transportation barriers."

Betcher said the program also innovates by collaborating with multiple organizations to design and deliver the effort.

Since it started in 2014, volunteers have donated more than 16,000 hours of service. In addition, approximately 4,200 lessons have been offered to 66 students, a total value of $210,000.

This is the second time RPL has received a Local Government Innovation Awards, having earned the award in 2015 for the BookBike.

All winners of this year’s awards will be recognized at a special celebration at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in December.