Ken & Sylvia Marantz

The art of the picture book is timeless. Just ask anyone, and chances are they will remember that special book from their childhood — a book that ultimately taught them about life and the world around them. 

Thanks to the efforts of the late Kenneth A. and Sylvia Marantz, many more generations of children will share in that priceless experience.

For more than 50 years, the Marantzes had collected, reviewed and carefully preserved thousands of picture books and related objects — Ken as a professor of art education at The Ohio State University, and Sylvia as a school librarian. Then in 2008, they generously offered their collection to the School of Information (iSchool) at Kent State University to create the Marantz Picturebook Collection for the Study of Picturebook Art, housed in the School's Reinberger Children's Library Center.

The School of Information celebrates this unique collection chronicling the rich artistic and literary tradition of modern storytelling for young people. It is the only one of its kind in the nation in which the books are cataloged by illustrator, acknowledging Ken’s long-held view that picture books are "art objects."

Ken and Sylvia were delighted that their cherished books, posters, realia and original art found such a loving home. “We can’t imagine a more beneficial place for the collection to grow,” Ken had said. “This is a dream come true for us.”

An endowment was set up by the Marantzes to fund an annual research fellowship and a picture book symposium to ensure that the collection would contribute to ongoing research around picture books.

Ken had said he and Sylvia saw the fellowship and symposia, as ways to “bring scholars and researchers in to spend some time in the collection, to uncover insights that [they] hadn’t seen, perhaps, to bring to light talent and so forth, and also to support research-based presentations and publications around the topic.” It was their intention that the collection be put to good use by students, scholars and researchers, authors, illustrators, and the wider community.

The collection now includes more than 27,000 picture books from the past 40 years, as well as posters, original artwork, and character toys, all of which are now artistically and functionally displayed. Thanks to a generous $249,000 grant from the Reinberger Foundation of Cleveland, the Marantz Picturebook Collection occupies 1,800 square feet of newly renovated space and features compact shelving, display areas for rare books and collections, a distance learning classroom, storytime area and private study locations.

The Marantz collection hosts many people and events throughout the year: 

  • Local children attending the University’s Child Development Center visit monthly for special children's programs.
  • Classes from the university’s School of Visual Communication Design visit for guest lectures and inspiration in their designs.
  • iSchool students as well as students from across the Kent State campus use the collection in their work.
  • Conferences and workshops regularly fill the space.
  • Noted illustrators of children’s books have stood in awed silence at seeing all of their works together on the shelf, as their books are usually scattered when shelved by author in other collections.
  • In 2015, the School welcomed its first Marantz research scholar, and the inaugural picture book symposium was held in summer 2016. 
  • The next Marantz Picturebook Research Symposium will be held Aug. 5-7, 2018. 

Ken and Sylvia Marantz were key partners in helping the iSchool to become one of the top youth services programs in the country and being able to inspire future generations of educators, librarians, researchers and scholars, authors, illustrators, historians and everyone who values the magic of picture books and their importance in children’s lives.