Freeing Dewey

The essential purpose of this site will be to record the entire process of “freeing dewey” from the shelves at the Frankfort Public Library District. Thus, this blog is an attempt to vocally and visually present all parts of the process.  Scanned images, as well as, written concepts will be posted on this site as they are undertaken by the Project Coordinators – Melissa Rice, Head of Adult Services, and Joanna Kolendo, Reference Librarian – and other staff members.

We have been on our journey to Dewey-Free for several years.  From 2005-2007, we worked with Library Planning Associates, Inc. to examine our long-term service goals and space needs.  In 2007, we participated in a community survey and were 1 of 4 MLS libraries to participate in The Customer-Focused Library project.  These 3 projects clearly show that we need to make our patrons’ library experience efficient, service-focused, and inquisitive.

At the 12th Annual PLA conference, which took place March 25-29 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the staff of the Maricopa County Library District, discussed their new Dewey-Free Perry Branch.  Since then, the Frankfort Public Library has seriously discussed, not necessarily saying no to Dewey, but rather, slowly freeing him, something that we, as well as other libraries, have begun to do years ago with our biography and fiction collections.

On April 16, 2008, our Director, Detlev Pansch (now at Barrington Area Library), called a meeting to discuss this potential project.  As a group, we decided unanimously to forge ahead and begin this project.


11 responses to “Freeing Dewey

  1. Carolyn Elmes

    I’m very interested in your idea of freeing Dewey and I look forward to following the progress on this blog. I think it’s a great idea!

  2. I manage the Southlake Library (an afluent area of suburban Dallas Fort Worth, TX) and we are currently in the midst of dropping the Dewey Decimal System. Working through youth first and then moving to adult in the fall. We have had nothing be praise from our customers about the change that we are implementing. We decided to change based on a process of review, the primacy of superior customer service, and other innovations we have created in our library which has led to a natural evolution away from that system of classification.

  3. I am curious as an educator, why would any library want to fashion itself as a bookstore?
    According to your minutes the previous director suggested this concept and the employees embraced it but when, if ever ,did the Board of Trustees,( the governoring body that represents the TAX payers) approve this highly aggressive act. Does anyone care about educating future generations or is the new goal just pure entertainment and let the world fall apart. Our grammar schools, high schools and colleges have no inclination towards eliminating dewey so why would a public library that is supposed to foster knowledge do this?

  4. First, I applaud the library for going Dewey Free and having the courage and innovative insight to do so, and to answer Jeanne DeRaimo’s question, the primary reason is to increase circulation and make books easier to locate! Not all libraries use Dewey–some use the Library of Congress method of classification; and what better way to educate than to let students know there are a variety of ways to conduct research. This is a perfect way to foster knowledge, and every “real educator ” employed full time in the classroom would know this!
    To answer the other question: the Board does not have to approve this change as it does not fall under their responsibilities; the librarians are trained educated professionals in their field of expertise; thus, the Board does NOT micromanage the day-by-day activities of the library as that is the library administrator’s job function.
    Congratulations to the Frankfort librarians and the Board and the community newspapers (SouthtownStar in particular) for supporting this change.

  5. Just a quick response to Jeanne DeRaimo’s question. I am not an educator I manage a library and my focus is on making it easily accessable to all, and I provide a product that our customers use – 70% of our community have library cards and for a community our size we circulate more items then any library in Texas – we are well utilized and well thought of in the community. We have an advisory board not a governing one and we are a department within a municipal government that expects us to prove with numbers that we deserve the money we get – a philosophy with which I whole heartedly agree
    We have a popular materails collection but the books that usually circulate are generally better written fiction – not the pulp stuff that some seem to thing the public will gravitate to if left to their own devices – we believe on the contrary that people should be left to their own devices and we plan on making it easier for people to do so as we go thorugh the process of removing Dewey.
    We delude oursleves if we think most taxpayers care about what classification system we have in the library just as long as they can get easy access to the materialsls that we are paid by them to provide.
    I am sure the Dewey Decimal system and its elimination in just a handful of libraries around the country is not leading to the demise of western culture as we know it – there have been many periods throughout history that folks were sure the world was going to end – it did not – it just changed, and those who were tolerant of change succesfully adapted.
    A final thought and I will leave it at that – I am very aware that librarians disagree with this kind of change – I have received a number of really nasty e-mails and folks that won’t even talk to me anymore – I guess I am cut from a different cloth – I don’t begrudge anyone for keeping Dewey – I understand that good managers make decisions about what they think better satisfys the needs of their users. I don’t really care if I am given the same courtesy – I don’t run the Southlake library to satisfy other librarians. Our mission statement says nothing about the library existing to foster knowledge – our mission says that we are to provide resources to the comunity and strife to serve the broadest swath of tax payers that we are able to do. Call me a socialist but if the entire community pays for us to provide a resource – I am not going to aim to provide service to 10 or 20 % of them but the entire community and I don’t believe I am well placed to tell them what they can read or use – I am well placed to make it readily available though.

  6. Margaret Tassione

    I think it’s a wonderful concept. Many patrons are sometimes hesitant to ask and like the pleasure of browsing the stacks. Kudos to you.


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