Offered on an irregular basis

MAS: completion of MAS core and permission of the iSchool Graduate Advisor

GOALS: The course is an introduction to visual literacy as part of information literacy: the effective gathering, organization, use, and evaluation of visual information. Students explore theories of visual information, contexts of visual information use and users, physical and subject attributes of images, and the intellectual aspects of organizing and describing images in visual resources collections. The development of visual information and visual literacy skills prepares students to work as visual resources specialists in libraries, special collections, multimedia digital collections, and cultural heritage collections.


Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Discuss theories of human visual perception and visual knowledge representation for the purpose of understanding the description and uses of images.
  • Describe visual information needs and image-seeking behaviors in relation to different end uses of images (e.g., for teaching and illustration, advertising and message-making, historical evidence).
  • Analyze, describe, classify, and index images based on a variety of visual, physical, contextual, and interpretive attributes.
  • Demonstrate a vocabulary of image description terms and recognize the traditions of terminologies among different visually-focused disciplines and work contexts.
  • Compare original images and a variety of reproduction media, especially digital, and their strengths and shortcomings in conveying visual information in different use contexts.
  • Evaluate the usefulness of metadata standards and tools for visual image description, including schemas, descriptive and subject vocabularies, indexing policies, and display options for organization and access.
  • Evaluate the incorporation of emerging social classification and annotation technologies into image description for retrieval.
  • Incorporate visual literacy knowledge and skills into reference work. Instruct users of visual materials on image-seeking strategies and demonstrate an awareness of different kinds of visual resources databases (analog and digital).
  • Understand the legal, ethical, and commercial considerations of image information, particularly in the digital environment (e.g., access, copyright, and image manipulation).
  • Understand the potentials of automatic visual content recognition (computer recognition and processing) to aid image retrieval.
  • Discuss visual literacy as part of information literacy (the effective gathering, organization, use, and evaluation of information).


  • Overview of theories of visual information and human visual perception
  • Overview of different contexts and traditions of image users and image-seeking and visual information use
  • Varieties of visual resource collections, with a focus on digital collections
  • The impact of digitization of analog visual resources on the dissemination, retrieval, and use of images
  • Visual, physical, contextual, and interpretive attributes of images
  • Visual analysis of images and analysis of associated descriptive texts
  • Descriptive and subject cataloguing and indexing practice
  • Metadata standards and tools for image description, including schemas, descriptive and subject vocabularies, indexing policies, and display options
  • Social classification and annotation of online visual resources