Retiring librarian Lynne Cohen leaves remarkable legacy

Kendall McGowan, Managing News Editor

Librarian and former English teacher Lynne Cohen recently retired from her longtime position at the high school in order to travel the world with her husband, a decision which speaks to the adventurous nature she brought to every one of her many undertakings at the high school.

Cohen grew up and went to college in New York where she cultivated her passion for English. She then went to graduate school in Atlanta upon deciding that she wanted to be a librarian. She said that some people jokingly advised her away from the profession due to her talkative nature.

“When I first started working, people said I shouldn’t be a librarian because I like to talk too much, and I am loud!” Cohen said. “But I just always said, books and people. Where else could I find a job where I could always be talking to people and talking about books?”

Kendall McGowan/Sagamore staff

She stuck with it, and worked in a series of public libraries in Georgia and Massachusetts. In 1982 she landed in her current job at the high school, where she has worked for 31 and a half years. Although Cohen was originally hired as an audiovisual librarian, and has continued her work in the evolving field of technology throughout her time at the high school, she has assumed numerous other roles.

“Lynne doesn’t just do her job, she creates more and more jobs for herself for which she does not get paid more money,” School Within a School English teacher Keira Flynn-Carson said.

Among her many accomplishments, Cohen taught Video and Digital Video classes for 15 years and created the Film and Fiction class with English teacher Robert Primmer and taught it for five years. She also used to moderate the school’s Town Meetings when that was the main form of student government. In addition, she started and led the movie club for 15 years.

Another program Cohen started and led for six years was the Race Reels program with SWS English teacher Abby Erdmann, Digital Video teacher Krissie Fraser and social studies teacher Malcolm Cawthorne. She also started an annual film festival with Fraser and started an annual poetry festival with English teacher Alison Whitebone, which just celebrated its 21st year.

Sam Klein/Sagamore staff

In addition to these many projects, Cohen continued to work in the library. She said that she oversaw many changes in technology, including the conversion of the school’s VHS collection to DVD. She also spent a lot of time pairing seniors- she estimates over 1,000 of them- with books for their senior papers, worked to arrange summer reading, and brought nationally and internationally known writers and poets to the school, such as the writer and alumna Danzy Senna. For her efforts, Cohen won the Teacher of the Year award in 2013.

Cohen was known at the high school and beyond for her engaging presence, which has been described as funny, caring, thoughtful and eccentric by her colleagues and students. According to English Curriculum Coordinator Mary Burchenal, Cohen’s candid attitude was one of her most endearing qualities.

“I love her honesty,” Burchenal said. “I love that she says whatever’s on her mind, and that you always know exactly where you stand with Lynne. There’s nothing going on behind the scenes.”

Cawthorne said that another thing the high school will be missing in Cohen’s absence is the wealth of knowledge she has about the school.

“In a lot of ways, she’s a Brookline archive in her own mind,” he said. “She holds a lot of Brookline history in between her ears. And I don’t know how you replace that.”

According to Cohen, who said that she loves to travel, following her trip to Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia and Bali this spring, she will leave on another trip with her husband in the fall, this time to China, India, Japan and Nepal. Cohen said that in addition to traveling, she also plans to read a lot in her retirement.

“I was thinking about what I’m going to do when I retire the other day, and I was like, ‘oh, I think I’ll reread all of Shakespeare, you know, go back and try to read some of the classics,’ but also mix that in with some fun beach reads,” Cohen said.

Although she looks forward to an exciting retirement, Cohen said that the job she is leaving was perfectly suited to her.
“It’s my passion,” she said. “That’s what I mean- I get to be here, and most of what I do has something to do with what I feel passionate about and can share with people. How many adults who have a job for this long get to say that?”