Picture Book History Comes to Life in Kent State’s Reinberger Children’s Library Center

The Reinberger Children’s Library Center is home to over 25,000 picture books, some dating back to the 19th century.

Austin Monigold Reporter

A place unknown to many students, the Reinberger Children’s Library Center at Kent State allows students to view award-winning children’s books while offering them opportunities that may help in their academic careers. 

“Students who are in education who want to develop lesson plans, learn to design a book or research an artist are all welcome once the center reopens post-COVID-19. Theater students could also benefit from our puppet section,” said Center Director Michelle Baldini.

The puppet section is a miniature theater where the students could practice doing characters or even borrow the puppets for a short time upon request and approval.

Another chance for students to learn from the center is the Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth. The conference is an annual event and is the longest running multicultural conference in children’s books. It will take place on April 29 this year. 

“When you think about children learning about other people, other cultures and other countries, children’s books are a great initial exposure to it. So, I think it is important to have books that reflect all kids and all cultures,” said Marianne Martens, an associate professor in the School of Information at Kent State. 

The Marantz Picturebook Collection for the Study of Picturebook Art is included in the center and holds over 25,000 picture books spanning 40 years. 

The books were a gift from the late Dr. Ken Marantz and his wife Sylvia. The Marantz’s were dedicated to reviewing picture books and their donation expanded the center in 2008 with the help of the College of Communication and Information and the Reinberger family in Cleveland. 

The collection includes art pieces from several Caldecott winners. The Caldecott Medal is the annual award for the most distinguished American picture book for children and is presented by a division of the American Library Association. 

The center focuses on the work of illustrators and their contribution to art by displaying it separately for visitors to see in the collection. 

“A lot of times when people think of picture books, they think of it in the wrong way because they think it’s not an artist, but it is true art, and these artists are as talented as modern artists,” Baldini said.

The center showcases art by Rosemary Wells, the illustrator behind the children’s TV show “Max and Ruby.” Wells’s contributions are on display from an event with the center where she donated some of her early children’s picture book illustrations. Also present are pieces by artists such as Caldecott award winner David Macaulay, according to Baldini.  

Beyond the art held by the center, there is a long history of books held there. Some of the books held in the center date back over a century.

“We have miniature picture books that are pre-1901, many of which came from the Dayton Metropolitan Library and the Cuyahoga County Public Library that they have donated to us to manage and preserve,” Baldini said. The older books are stored in archives in the back of the center where they are carefully organized.

The center is not owned by the Kent State library itself. It holds books from the Wright Brothers Library Center and belongs to the School of Information within the College of Communication and Information and is on the third floor of Kent State’s main campus library. 

The books are not for rent but can be viewed by those who visit the center.

Austin Monigold covers CCI. Contact him at [email protected].