As Information Resources Specialist, Molly Schoen oversees cataloging and metadata-related aspects of the Visual Resources Collections at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The VRC is a collection of approximately 500,000 digital and analog images, operating within the Department of the History of Art. Schoen has a Masters in Library and Information Science, specializing in fine & performing arts libraries, from Wayne State University. She also has a BA in English from Michigan State University.
Just as one-shot information literacy sessions can be implemented in college classes to improve students’ research capabilities, similarly-styled sessions on image research can increase their visual literacy skills. While most students interact with images daily, capturing photos on their mobile devices, reading picture-heavy articles on websites, and reposting images from social media pages, such activities do not transform them into critical viewers and users of visual media. To be considered visually literate, as defined by the Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education by the Association of College and Research Libraries, an individual must “effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media.”
A wide range of research and critical thinking strategies may be introduced through these instructional sessions. Locating trustworthy sources online, evaluating the content and quality of images, scrutinizing manipulated images, understanding the implications of copyright, and creating an effective system to store digital files and manage citations are among the recommended topics for presentation. Teaching strategies for image research sessions include using live web searches in both scholarly and open access resources to highlight their relative strengths and weaknesses, using real life examples of image use scenarios to provide context, and structuring presentations based around the specific class in which it will be taught. The desired outcome of teaching an instructional session is to provide students with the tools and confidence they need to effectively use high-quality visual materials in their undergraduate years and beyond.