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Visual Literacy Competency Standards

Visual Literacy Array based on ACRL's Visual Literacy Standards

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) recently released Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. According to the standards “visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Visual literacy skills equip a learner to understand and analyze the contextual, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and technical components involved in the production and use of visual materials. A visually literate individual is both a critical consumer of visual media and a competent contributor to a body of shared knowledge and culture.”

In education today emphasis has been placed on many forms of literacy. As more visual and media elements are incorporated into education, visual literacy will continue to play a role in education. Today’s learning environments are rich with media and visual elements. Digital technology is also increasing access to visual content. Through the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices students also have increased ability to create their own photos and post visual content online. Although students are engaging more and more with visual media, they may not have increased visual literacy skills.

According to the standards put forth by the ACR, “visual literacy education is typically a collaborative endeavor, involving faculty, librarians, curators, archivists, visual resources professionals, and learning technologists. Libraries play an important role in this process by selecting and providing quality image resources, developing research and subject guides for images, teaching image research strategies, and raising awareness of the ethical use of visual media. Libraries are also established partners in working with students to develop the critical thinking and evaluation skills essential to participation in visual culture.”

Also addressed in the new standards is accessibility of visual materials for individuals who have visual impairments. The standards stress the importance of the use of assistive technologies which include audio descriptions of visual materials.

A complete overview of the standards as well as additional information about visual literacy can be found on the ACRL’s Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education webpage.  Librarians and educators are encouraged to review the content and incorporate visual literacy into information literacy instruction and interactions.

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