David Cohen became a resident of Flushing House in the summer of 2005. Born in 1909, he will celebrate his 100th birthday on May 24, in the retirement home’s rooftop lounge, surrounded by family, friends and colleagues. He is a noted pioneer in the fields of multicultural librarianship and intellectual freedom.
Cohen received a Bachelor of Arts in 1930 and a Master of Education in 1934 from City College (City University of New York). In 1939 he received a Master of Library Science from Columbia University.
In the 1960s he was active in several library organizations involved with multiculturalism, particularly the need for ethnic and foreign language materials. He taught in the New York City public schools and served as librarian for Plainview High School on Long Island.
In 1967, Cohen became chairman of the American Library Association Committee on the Treatment of Minorities in Library Materials. He was the founding member of the Jewish Librarians’ Caucus. He was also a co-founder of the Long Island Coalition Against Censorship, which spearheaded Island Trees School District vs. Pico, the 1982 Supreme Court decision that prohibits local school boards from removing books from library shelves because they dislike the ideas contained in them.
Cohen taught library science at Queens College, founded the Friends of Queens College Library and sparked the annual competition for Queens Poet Laureate. He is Professor Emeritus of the Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies.
In 1986 he was awarded the Intellectual Freedom Award by the New York Library Association.
Cohen was founding editor of the Ethnic Materials and Information Exchange Bulletin and Roundtable of the ALA.In 1999, the ALA created the David Cohen EMIERT Multicultural Award in recognition of his early advocacy and promotion of multicultural library collections and services.
Additionally, Cohen was a charter member of the Freedom to Read Foundation and a trustee of the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund. Importantly, he is a lifetime card carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and served for many years on the Academic Freedom Committee of its New York Chapter.
On June 23, 2007, Cohen attended the ALA annual conference in Washington, D.C. where he was awarded the organization’s highest achievement — Honorary Membership. In a career that spanned seven decades, Cohen was honored for his numerous contributions to multicultural librarianship and intellectual freedom.
The staff and residents of Flushing House join with David’s family in wishing him a heartfelt “mazel tov” on the occasion of his 100th birthday!
For more information about Flushing House, visit their website at flushinghouse.com.