Strategies for Critical Visual Literacy Instruction in Small Liberal Arts Institutions

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Unframing the Visual Ch 6


Small liberal arts institutions face unique challenges when addressing visual literacy in academic library and archives instruction settings. Given the hybrid nature of job duties at institutions of this size, librarians and archivists often are not trained specifically in visual literacy or visual arts disciplines, and they often perform multiple functional duties in addition to instruction and support multiple disciplines. Resources and time for professional development can be limited, and instructors generally are limited to teaching one-shot sessions. The first section will complicate conventional methodologies and offer ideas for applied learning in both digital and in-person spaces. When examining traditional visual literacy, it is important to challenge the framework we were taught so that the field keeps growing and so that these principles align with student experiences. Next, using methods from museum education and history methods workshops, the second section will examine how students are empowered to demystify the understanding of visuals without formal arts training. This section encourages sessions that ask questions of visuals and reinforce an individual’s powers of observation and other ways of knowing. The last part will explore how visual literacy is more than just the “visual” in the traditional sense; it can involve description, haptics, tactile, and other ways of “seeing.” When incorporating values of Universal Design and Disability Studies, visual literacy expands to allow all users, regardless of level of sight, to interact, understand, and explore visual mediums.

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Association of College and Research Libraries


Visual literacy; Critical literacy; Critical visual literacy; Blind/Visually impaired; Library Studies; Archives; Information Literacy; ACRL Framework; One-shot library session; Universal Design


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Government Document




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Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International


book chapter

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alternative text; reading order; tagged PDF; long description

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Tagged, OCR'd PDF with corrected reading order and long alternative text image descriptions

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