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Martens Focuses Research on New Media and Youth

Posted Aug. 20, 2013

“We used to talk about the importance of young people reading “books,” but we now talk about the importance of reading  in a slightly different context, as “books” now exist in various formats, including printed books, apps, and even online fan fiction. Whatever the format, raising fluent readers help young people become better consumers and creators of information,” said School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) Assistant Professor Marianne Martens, Ph.D.

Marianne MartensMartens says she has “a passion for learning about the intersection of reading and digital technologies and how it impacts young people.” This past spring, for example, she developed and taught a new class called Youth Literature in the Digital Realm, which will be offered again in the fall. It examines the shift from print to digital formats in literature for young people, from apps for the youngest readers, to transmedia texts for tweens and teens. She also teaches one of SLIS’s core classes, Foundations of Library and Information Science.

Martens came to Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science in August 2012 to teach and continue her research in the area of youth services. She was attracted to Kent State’s SLIS because of its outstanding youth services librarianship specialization, which was just ranked 10th in the nation by U.S. News and World Report; by research opportunities afforded by the Marantz Picturebook Collection for the Study of Picturebook Art and the Reinberger Children’s Library Center; and by the school’s commitment to youth services, as evidenced by the number of faculty members teaching in this area.

Prior to entering academe, Martens worked in international children’s publishing and librarianship for more than a dozen years. She received a master’s in library and information science from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois and a doctorate in 2012 from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. As a Ph.D. candidate, Martens taught several classes, including Gender and Technology, Digital Libraries, The Structure of Information, Leadership in Digital Contexts, and Capstone in Digital Communication, Information, and Media.

Martens’ interest in new media formats has resulted in several publications. The results of a recent study of Danish children’s use of the International Children’s Digital Library will be published later this year in an article titled “Considerations of how children think: Danish children’s response to the International Children’s Digital Library” in the New Review of Children's Literature and Librarianship.

“In this research, I found that children’s developmental limitations, such as underdeveloped motor skills, difficulties with spelling, and cultural and linguistic barriers, made it difficult for them to find information,” she said. Her work on children informs information-seeking behavior within other populations, because such research translates to other marginalized users and special needs populations.

Her article on “Transmedia Teens” was published in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies (2011). This article is about young adults’ affective and immaterial labor within participatory, reading-related sites, from The Amanda Project to The Twilight Saga. A forthcoming book chapter (University of Toronto Press) called “Reading the Readers: Tracking Visible Online Reading Audiences,” is about the transparency of reading audiences enabled by online participatory sites, particularly around books for young people. “Within these sites, readers provide rich evidence of their preferences and engagement, as well as a record of activity,” she said.

Another area of interest for Martens is international children’s literature and librarianship, and in that regard, she is developing a new hybrid class, which she hopes will be offered next year.

“While most of the class will be online, we will meet for seven to 10 days in Denmark,” Martens said. “Some of the activities will include visiting the Royal Library School and a range of libraries, a publishing company where we’ll meet Danish authors and illustrators, and an animation school, where we’ll learn about transmedia storytelling. As a case study within the vast field of international children’s literature and librarianship, because of its child-centric culture, Denmark presents interesting and rich points of comparison with the United States.” Martens is originally from Denmark, and attended elementary schools and high schools in Switzerland, Scotland, Denmark and the United States.

While Martens has a number of other projects in the works, they all point to one clear message: “In our age of information-overload, it is more important now than ever that children and young people become not only fluent readers, but also critical readers.”

For more information about the School of Library and Information Science, visit www.kent.edu/slis.