Melissa Villa-Nicholas
Melissa Villa-Nicholas

I am a scholar in intersectional information science. My work focuses on Latinx information and technology histories and practices, the social constructions of information technology, and a critical analysis of human information and technology behavior. I am an Assistant Professor in the Harrington School of Communication and Media and the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies.

 Check out my lecture with Dr. Miriam Sweeney (University of Alabama) for the Digital Harvard Kennedy School lecture series on Latinas designed as AI.

Recent work on Latinx women’s socio-techno practices

My recent work on Data Citizenship: Latina Immigrants and Information Technologies in the Borderlands looks at how recently immigrated Mexican and Central American women in the borderlands of Southern California are surveilled by, live with and use information technologies, namely mobile devices- in lieu of full benefits of U.S. citizenship. I explore the processes of Latina information technology use in their own lives within the contested borderlands spaces in which they are both highly visible from surveillance technologies and highly invisible because of their citizenship status. 


Reference by Mail

In Searching for Answers: Meeting Users’ Information Needs, we are currently answering Reference by Mail letters from incarcerated patrons. The larger purpose of this project is doing reference librarianship without reitnforcing the normalization of the carceral state. Check out our article in The Reference Librarian.


Recent publications

Villa-Nicholas, M. (Forthcoming 2019) “Latinx Digital Memory: Identity Making in Real Time.” Social Media and Society

Villa-Nicholas, M. and Sweeney, M. (2019) “Designing the “good citizen” through Latina identity in USCIS’s virtual assistant “Emma” Feminist Media Studies

Austin, J. and Villa-Nicholas, M. (Summer 2019) “Information Provision and the Carceral State: Race and Reference Beyond the Idea of the ‘Underserved.’” Radical Librarianship

Villa-Nicholas, M (May 2018). “Terror by Telephone: Normative Anxieties around Obscene Calls in the 1960s." First Monday. 23.5

Velez, L. and Villa-Nicholas, M. (Spring 2017) “Mapping Race and Racism in U.S. Library History Literature, 1997-2015.” Library Trends. 65.4 

Villa-Nicholas, M. (Spring 2017) “Ruptures in Telecommunications: Latina and Latino Information Workers in Southern California.” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies. 42.1 

Villa-Nicholas, M. (Fall 2015) “Latina/o Librarian Technological Engagements: REFORMA in the Digital Age.” Latino Studies. 13.4 


I’m currently teaching…

  • Searching for Answers: Meeting Users’ Information Needs.

  • Immigrant Information Contexts and Practices

Upcoming Courses:

  •  Introduction to Information Science and Technologies

  • Searching for Answers: Meeting Users’ Information Needs.

Previously Taught:

  • The History of Libraries

  • Race, Gender, Sexuality and the Information Professions

  •  Introduction to Information Science and Technologies

  • Document, Assess, Evaluate (Research Methods)



PhD in Information Science
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Summer 2015



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