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Visual Literacy

What is Visual Literacy?

“Visual Literacy” might be an unfamiliar term to you, but it bares similar meanings to “learn about the visuals.”


In the library world, visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media.


According to the American Library Association, Visual literacy is an interdisciplinary skill set that must be taught and learned across higher education – in the arts, humanities, science, technology, business, and more. College students are expected to use and critique visual materials in their academic work and to produce visual materials that effectively communicate their research and scholarly activities. Visual literacy competence is essential for successful participation in this media-rich academic environment. 



The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) adds to this definition in stating that a visually literate individual is able to:

  • Determine the nature and extent of the visual materials needed
  • Find and access needed images and visual media effectively and efficiently
  • Interpret and analyze the meanings of images and visual media
  • Evaluate images and their sources
  • Use images and visual media effectively
  • Design and create meaningful images and visual media
  • Understand many of the ethical, legal, social, and economic issues surrounding the creation and use of images and visual media, and access and use visual materials ethically. (“ACRL Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education”)