We live in a digital age and in recent years, due in no small part to the rise of social media, there has been an explosion in the volume of visual images and visual media available for consumption. This re-emergence of the visual as a major conduit for the communication of thoughts and ideas has, in terms of education and academic study, highlighted the necessity to provide students with the skills to understand and utilise images and other visual media. Visual literacy provides the individual with the necessary skills to think critically about and derive meaning from the images they encounter.
This study focuses on the specific needs of Art Students in Ireland and sets out to gauge the awareness of Visual Literacy among Librarians and Library Staff of those institutions offering a level 8 and/or higher qualification in Art. This motivation behind this topic was two-fold. In the first instance, Art Students who undergo this course of study will need to be equipped with the necessary skills to become life-long learners and to successfully progress their self-directed careers as practicing artists. The second reason was the lack of published literature relating to Visual Literacy in this discipline despite the obvious application and benefits to this user group. This exploratory study gathered primary data through an online survey which was circulated to a census population of Librarians and Library Staff around the country.
The key findings of the study showed that there is an awareness of the term and concept of Visual Literacy in these academic libraries. There is also an understanding of the particular information and research needs of Art Students and a general consensus that the current Information Literacy instruction on offer does not meet these requirements. This study also shows that there is sufficient interest and enthusiasm relating to Visual Literacy to warrant further study and investigation It is recommended that a more in-depth course of research be undertaken with regards to Visual Literacy from the perspective of Library Staff and Faculty with an additional exploration of Information Literacy instruction for Art Students. Examination of the information seeking habits and inspiration seeking habits of Art students is also recommended with a view to combining all these threads into a comprehensive investigation into the role and provision of Visual Literacy instruction for art Students in Ireland.