FIMS Profile

Melissa Adler
Graduate Program Chair for Media Studies and Library and Information Science (Doctoral)
Associate Professor

FIMS & Nursing Building Room 4136
Phone: 519-661-2111 x81034

University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5B7
Fax: 519-661-3506
  • Research

  • Publications

  • Courses Taught

  • Theses Supervised

I locate my research within a growing body of scholarship in critical classification studies, which intersects with critical data, infrastructure, and library and archival studies. I am an interdisciplinary scholar working across the fields of library and information science, gender and sexuality studies, literary studies, and American studies. I grapple with the tensions between standardization and local control, institutionalization and personal experience, universals and particulars, and the various kinds of knowledges and relations of power in libraries and archives. I do this work by closely examining and historicizing existing classifications and knowledge organization systems like the Library of Congress Subject Headings and shelf classification, and by advocating for collaborative, creative interventions that work toward dismantling the structures that have been constructed in and by heteropatriarchal, white supremacist, and settler colonial ideology. My book, Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge (Fordham University Press, 2017), examines the history of sexuality through the lens of Library of Congress classifications. It has been reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement, Los Angeles Review of Books, American Archivist, and other publications.

One of my current projects is a critical history of Thomas Jefferson’s information and documentation practices. Tentatively called "Thomas Jefferson and the In-formation of Empire," the book examines Jefferson's plantation, factory, and public offices as grounds for developing information and labour management practices based on an emerging prison reform movement, his vision for the young republic, and prevailing discourses about laws of nature and nations. Perhaps the most overlooked but very important legacy of Jefferson’s career is his role in the convergence of capital, state power, and racialization in what I regard as early information communication technologies, data science, and library and archival methods. I held a short-term fellowship at the Robert H. Smith Center for Jefferson Studies in summer 2018 and will return in August 2022 for a second fellowship

Alongside the critical and historical research, I have begun to collaborate with librarians, archivists, and students who are also artists and creative writers to cultivate a sense of belonging, kinship, and togetherness by reimagining knowledge organization techniques. With the SSHRC Insight grant that I received in 2019 I have been facilitating a collaborative project invested in reparative knowledge organization techniques that augment, revise, or resist colonialist, global standards. The project draws inspiration from such figures as Audre Lorde, Jorge Luis Borges, Aby Warburg, an ancient Greek encyclopedist named Pamphila, and others. This project is about making a home in which knowledge and spaces are organized according to principles that are more just and welcoming. 

I am also co-editing a special issue of the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies titled “Assemblage, Inquiry, and Common Work in LIS” with Baharak Yousefi. The purpose of this issue is to cultivate a shared research culture among library and information science (LIS) workers and scholars. 

Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge (Fordham University Press, 2017).

Articles and essays:

Book review: Nathan Snaza, Animate Literacies: Literature, Affect, and the Politics of Humanism (Duke University Press, 2019); Jack Halberstam, Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire (Duke University Press, 2020); Julietta Singh, Unthinking Mastery: Dehumanism and Decolonial Entanglements (Duke University, 2018). College & Research Libraries. 83, no. 1 (January 2022): 147.

Adler, M. and Nightingale, G., Books and Imaginary Being(s): The Monstrosity of Library Classifications, Proceedings from Document Academy, 7, no. 1 (2020).

The Strangeness of Subject Cataloging, afterword to special issue “Strange Circulations: Affect and the Library,” Library Trends 68, no. 3 (Winter 2020), 549-556.

Eros in the Library: Considering the Aesthetics of Knowledge Organization, in Special issue: “Critical Art Librarianship,” Art Libraries Journal, 42, no. 4 (April 2019), 67-71. 

Adler, M, and Harper, L.M., Race and Ethnicity in Classification: Teaching Knowledge Organization from a Social Justice Perspective.” Library Trends, 66, no. 5 (Summer 2018).

Do Monsters Dream?, in the Museum of Dreams, 2017.

Deleuze as Subject – B2430.D454 – Mapping Deleuze Studies in the Library, Deleuze Studies Journal, 11, no. 3 (August 2017): 429-456.

Adler, M., Huber, J. T., and Nix, A. T. Stigmatizing Disability: Libraries and the Marking and Marginalization of Books about People with Disabilities, The Library Quarterly, 87, no.2 (2017): 117-135.

Classification Along the Color Line: Excavating Systemic Racism in the Stacks, Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies, 1, no. 1 (2017).

The Case for Taxonomic Reparations, Knowledge Organization, In special issue, Subject Ontogeny and Evolution of Knowledge Organization Systems, 43, no. 8 (2016): 630-639. 

The Keeper of the Collections and the Delta Collection: Regulating Obscenity at the Library of Congress, 1940-1963, Special issue—Gender in Education and Information Studies: Interrogating Knowledge Production, Social Structures and Equitable Access, Interactions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, 12, no.1 (2016).

Let’s Not Homosexualize the Library Stacks: Liberating Gays in the Library Catalog, 1970-1988. Journal of the History of Sexuality 44, no.3 (2015): 478-507.

Kim, Y. and Adler, M. Data Sharing Behaviors of Social Scientists: Investigating the Roles of Individual Motivations, Institutional Pressures, and Data Repositories. International Journal of Information Management 35, no.4 (2015): 408-418.

Broker of Information, the ‘Nation's Most Important Commodity’: The Library of Congress in the Neoliberal Era. Information & Culture: A Journal of History, 50, no.1 (2015): 24-50.

Adler, M. and Tennis, J. T. Toward a Taxonomy of Harm in Knowledge Organization. Knowledge Organization 40, no.4 (2013): 266-272.

Disciplining Scholarship at the Library of Congress. Knowledge Organization, 39, no.5 (2012): 370-376.

Transcending Library Catalogs: A Comparative Study of Controlled Terms in LCSH and User-Generated Tags in LibraryThing for Transgender Books. Journal of Web Librarianship, 3, no.4 (2009): 309-331.


FIMS 9604 Special Topic: Informing and Unforming Colonial Imaginaries 2021 Winter FIMS 9800 Introduction to Doctoral-Level Scholarship 2024 Winter , 2023 Fall , 2023 Winter , 2022 Fall LIS 9002 Information Organization, Curation and Access 2022 Winter , 2021 Winter LIS 9004 Research Methods 2023 Fall , 2022 Fall , 2020 Fall , 2019 Fall , 2019 Winter , 2018 Fall (2 sections) , 2018 Winter , 2017 Fall (2 sections) MIT 2025 Research Methods for the Digital Age 2024 Winter , 2023 Winter , 2022 Winter , 2020 Fall , 2020 Winter (2 sections) MIT 3000 Designing and Critiquing Research Methods 2019 Winter , 2018 Winter

Nightingale, Greg. The Public Library as Past Become Space
Phd in Library and Information Science, December 2020
Supervisors: Melissa Adler and Paulette Rothbauer