September 8th was declared International Literacy Day by UNESCO in 1965, and has since been celebrated worldwide every year. Its aim is to call attention to the importance of literacy to individuals, families, societies, and sustainable development. Today, approximately 775 million adults lack basic literacy skills, and over two thirds of them are women.
Literacy is often defined as the ability to read and write. If you are fortunate enough to have had the opportunities to develop this skill and now find yourself at an academic institution, you also be familiar with other types of literacies. Some examples include digital literacy, financial literacy, computer literacy, media literacy, information literacy, multicultural literacy, and visual literacy.
This being a visual resources blog, I’d like to focus on visual literacy for a moment. The
Association of College & Research Libraries defines visual literacy as “a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media.” The authors of ACRL’s Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education go on to say that the pervasiveness of images and visual media in contemporary culture has changed what it means to be literate. Individuals must develop visual literacy skills in order to engage capably in a visually-oriented society. Visual literacy empowers individuals to participate fully in a visual culture.
ACRL has outlined seven visual literacy standards, each including performance indicators and learning outcomes, to help develop a framework in teaching visual literacy skills. These standards include competencies ranging from being able to identify what type of image one needs for his or her research to assessing the ethical and legal issues surrounding use of visual media.
Throughout the fall 2014 semester, the University Library will be conducing a workshop series focusing on visual literacy competencies. These workshops will be available through the Savvy Researcher program, and will start October 10th with “Finding and Selecting Images.” Following that will be Interpreting Images, Creating and Incorporating Visual Materials into your Research, and Applying Copyright to Visual Material.