April 23, 2018

Joanna Kolendo & Melissa Rice | Movers & Shakers 2010 – Change Agents

Library Journal March 15, 2010: Melissa Rice & Joanna Kolendo, Mover & Shakers

Dewey Free

Some libraries are moving away from Dewey. First came the Perry Branch of Arizona’s Maricopa County Library District in 2007. The Frankfort Public Library District (FPLD), IL, followed suit in 2008. After an arduous year of converting more than 29,000 titles to a taxonomic system that is less Dewey and more Barnes & Noble, on September 10, 2009, FPLD librarians Joanna Kolendo (pictured, on right) and Melissa Rice (on left) tweeted, “Our Adult Colls r officially DEWEY FREE.”

The last title to make the change? “The Double Daring Book for Girls.”

Kolendo and Rice are not the first to dare to challenge Dewey. What is new is their open airing of the process on the Dewey Free blog, created by Kolendo to document the project she and Rice co-coordinated. “Both of them were adamant that the Dewey Free project remain a transparent process so that everyone in the library profession could benefit, whether they agreed with the mission of the project or not,” recounts FPLD colleague Nicole Suarez.

Created by Kolendo, the blog documented the trials and tribulations of converting the familiar taxonomic system into one that some claim is easier for patrons, who have reported being confused or intimidated by Dewey’s comprehensive but old-school classifications. In short: many think it’s easier to browse Barnes & Noble than the library.

In addition to their regular duties, “we had to develop our new subject collection categories and oversee the staff who worked on converting the materials,” describes Rice. “We were able to design a completely new layout of our materials and then coordinate the physical shifting of those materials—lots of logistical steps with a couple of miscalculations along the way.”

“It involved a lot of different components, from project planning to creative brainstorming,” confirms Kolendo, who has since left FPLD to pursue a master’s degree in medieval studies in Ireland. “It also allowed me to collaborate with my coworkers across a wide range of departments and to discover various new technologies.”

Those new technologies include “a blog and wiki for internal library use, where staff members could communicate about the progress and frustrations of reclassifying all 29,000 and some volumes,” says Suarez. “Joanna not only was responsible for updating all the 2.0 technologies that kept the library world abreast of our adventure…she used Twitter to record the last six months of the project, which allowed followers to receive updates about challenges and triumphs in real time.”

The goal is to improve user experience. “Our library has embraced ‘deconstructing’ our collections and getting down to answering the questions: How do people look for materials? What do you expect to find in a health collection? A language arts collection?” says Rice. “I encourage all of my staff to reevaluate our services, our collections, and, fundamentally, what we do. After all, we are here to serve the community.”


Melissa Rice and Joanna Kolendo, Frankfort Public Library District, IL

Melissa Rice

CURRENT POSITION Head of Adult Services

DEGREE MLIS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2000

Joanna Kolendo

CURRENT POSITION Former Adult Reference Librarian

DEGREE MLIS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2006

PASSION Medieval studies