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. Jefferson's plantation, factory, and public offices were 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. Jefferson invented, modified, and tested surveillance techniques and knowledge organization practices on his property and in public offices. 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 and library and archival methods.
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 collective project invested in reparative knowledge organization techniques that augment, revise, or resist 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:
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
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, created by Sharon Sliwinski,
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
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.