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David Cohen: Education Award

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At least his absence bought him time to find a place to mount the honor, only the latest of many he has racked up in 93 years of life.

“I have a showcase out in my office,” said the retired Baysider, an adjunct professor at Queens College. “I’m going to have to take one of my other awards off to make room for this.”

Cohen’s official job, as he calls it, is to direct the Friends of the Queens College Library, a fund-raising organization.

But the borough president singled him out as a pioneer who fought to ensure publishers offered materials that reflect the full diversity of the nation’s multi-ethnic population.

Cohen started his career as an elementary school teacher but later served as the librarian for Plainview High School on Long Island, ultimately joining Queens College in 1975 as an adjunct professor of library science.

He was at Plainview when the president of the Association of School Libraries asked him to head up a committee on the treatment of minorities in library materials.

“She said they tried to find materials for minority groups and they couldn’t find any,” Cohen recalled.

That was in 1967.

His committee tackled the problem by drafting a report and meeting with publishers, advocating for a more diverse body of literature.

“It was a reminder to them that you couldn’t find any stuff in the libraries about all the ethnic groups who live in America,” Cohen said.

In 1983 he helped establish the Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table with the American Library Association, which is still going strong and regularly publishes informational bulletins.

Meanwhile, he continues serving as a vocal advocate with his Queens College office as his base.

“I come in everyday to this office,” he said, “whether I get paid or not.”

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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