University of Wisconsin–Madison

Alumni Profile: Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez infuses social justice into work as a children’s librarian

Photo of Katelyn Martens-RodriguezKatelyn Martens-Rodriguez (MA’14) came to the iSchool to become a school librarian. With a degree in elementary education and a teaching license in Minnesota, it made sense. However, after working briefly at a public school in southern Minnesota, she transitioned to public libraries and hasn’t looked back. “While I loved being a school librarian, I’m glad I made the transition to public libraries. I truly enjoy working with families and focusing on children birth to 12 alongside their grown-ups.”

To enhance her work, Katelyn has also been involved with The Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) and greatly enjoys her experiences with the organization. She was recently elected as a member of ALSC’s Sibert Award Committee, a group who names the top author and illustrator of the most distinguished informational book published for children in the United States. All of the work she’s doing with ALSC helps her network and expand her skills. “Growing professionally means finding mentors and like-minded librarians to connect with on topics of interest.”

How did the iSchool influence Katelyn’s career? Professor Rebekah Willett, instructor Omar Poler (MA’10), practicum supervisor Kelli Ballwahn, the Tribal Libraries Archives and Museums (TLAM) class, and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) all resonate in her work. “I continue to admire Rebekah’s drive, research, and accomplishments. Omar Poler’s voice cannot be understated; he made me think, learn, and grow. Most of all, he led the TLAM class which was integral in informing me about the needs and priorities of tribal communities in Wisconsin. Kelli Ballwahn provided space to implement the things I was learning into a professional setting.”

Working at the CCBC also strongly influenced Katelyn’s path to becoming a children’s librarian. Their vast collection exposed her to a variety of children’s materials and allowed her to become familiar with different publishers. Working with the CCBC staff was also key. “The librarians taught me how to evaluate children’s literature, provide professional development for youth services librarians, and be subversive.”

The principles of equity, inclusion, and social justice were present throughout her iSchool experiences and remain at the focus of Katelyn’s work today. “Within my daily work life, I integrate these topics through displays, programming, and interactions with patrons. Within storytime, this means integrating content (stories, songs, rhymes, etc.) from a diverse array of voices, utilizing informational texts, keeping statistics to hold myself accountable, and making sure my patrons see themselves positively represented in the stories I choose to highlight.”