Robert Montoya Appointed to Faculty of Indiana University’s School of Informatics and Computing

The IS doctoral candidate will teach as an assistant professor of information and library science at IU Bloomington.

Robert Montoya (’03, B.A. American Literature and Culture; ’15, MLIS) has received a tenure-track appointment as an assistant professor of information and library science at Indiana University Bloomington. The doctoral candidate, who graduates this spring from the UCLA Department of Information Studies will be teaching in IU’s School of Informatics and Computing this fall.

“I’m really excited about going to Bloomington,” says Montoya. “The faculty, students, and the resources there are incredible. They have world-class computing resources and a top-notch Library system—including the Lilly Library, a rare books, manuscripts, and special collections repository. The former School of Library and Information Science merged with the School of Informatics and Computing back in 2013, so this new integrated unit creates a lot of potential synergies. You have a lot of individuals producing research in the areas of computing, technology, and informatics, which can now be brought into discourse with the concerns of library and information science.”

Montoya’s dissertation on “Contingent Consensus: Documentary Control in Biodiversity Classifications” was a major factor in his IU appointment, with his focus on the domain of knowledge organization and its intersections with biodiversity studies, and science, technology, and society studies. Montoya’s dissertation research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the Beta-Phi-Mu International Library & Information Studies Honor Society, and the Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information.

“My research is really interdisciplinary in that sense,” Montoya says. “Indiana University is really supportive of that and this is going to be a place where I can thrive and expand and think in new directions on what I’m doing. There are so many individuals, libraries, departments, and museums, all across campus that I can’t wait to start dialogues with.”

Before he leaves UCLA, Montoya will be able to do just that. With Johanna Drucker, Bernard and Martin Breslauer Professor of Bibliography, he is organizing an international symposium on the politics of classification, to take place at UCLA on May 5.

“Professor Drucker and I are bringing in classification, philosophy of information, documentation, and museum specialists from all over the world to think about how we can think of classifications as political and social spaces, fundamentally products of particular cultural conditions,” says Montoya. “There will be individuals from the museum community, from the biodiversity and scientific community, as well as people who are working in ethics and philosophy, in addition to library studies.

“This symposium will bring to the fore issues of policy and how classifications have potential affects on governmental levels, in addition to how they structurally enhance or inhibit social agency,” he notes. “It will be a rare space and opportunity to think about classification in an interdisciplinary way. I think these kinds of conversations are essential to keeping the discipline vibrant.”

Montoya, who served as Head of Public Services for UCLA’s Special Collections until 2015 and began working in the UCLA Library as an undergrad, says that the professional experience “really shaped the way I understand how libraries work, not just on campus but socially and how they shape the way we interpret our culture. I would not be in this field if I hadn’t had that experience. I’m indebted to all my past colleagues and look forward to continuing those relationships.”

Keeping strong connections between information schools and the library environment is important to Montoya, who is currently a teaching associate in the UCLA General Education Clusters, and a summer instructor for the California Rare Book School at UCLA.

“One of our primary responsibilities is to train future library, information, and museum professionals,” he says. “If we don’t tether our work in practical matters, then it’s problematic. For me, I care so deeply about Information Studies precisely because of its direct connection with cultural, memory, and scientific institutions. The result of our thinking and approaches have immediate and direct consequences for the communities we serve, and as I articulate in my own dissertation work, to global-scale environmental concerns as well. It’s vital to me that all of my work stay grounded and relevant in that sense.”

Montoya points to his own education in UCLA IS as instrumental in teaching him about civic and personal responsibility both as an educator and as an information professional.

“I would not be where I am if it were not for Professor Drucker,” he says. “Not only because of all the things you think an advisor should do, but in the way that she’s helped me understand crafting an argument and being theoretically critical and rigorous. She taught me how to approach the craft of research as the process of always questioning assumptions and ensuring you are being ethical and that your logic is sound. With her, I have had an unparalleled training experience.

“Jonathan Furner helped me think about how to critique issues from a knowledge organizing and philosophical perspective, to broaden my thinking and imagine my work’s connections to other theoretical domains. He’s been an intellectual model all along the way. Numerous conversations with Geoffrey Bowker at UC Irvine’s Department of Informatics, and Chris Kelty, in the Department of Information Studies and the Institute for Society and Genetics at UCLA, have been so integral as well. All of my committee has been key in this process, I can’t even say enough about the level of support I’ve received in this program. And a special thanks to UCLA Special Collections and to the UCLA Library as well, where all of this work really started.”

Click here for information on “The Politics of Classification” Symposium at UCLA on May 5.