February 16, 2018

Betsy Diamant-Cohen | Movers & Shakers 2004

Beyond the Comfort Zone


What have librarians got to do with brain research? Much more than most librarians realize, says Betsy Diamant-Cohen, Children’s Programming Specialist at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore.

Her original plan was to be a social worker, but it was suggested that she could be equally effective in improving lives as a librarian–while having a lot more fun. She became convinced by observing library programs in Boston, part of her senior thesis on how libraries aid children’s development. After getting her MLS she spent several years as a children’s librarian in New Jersey.

When she moved to Israel, where she worked at the Israel Museum, her English-language story times were so popular she ended up presenting them in 14 different neighborhoods. Realizing how few children she could reach on her own, she gave workshops for parents and teachers on how to use books with children.

After her first child was born, Diamant-Cohen discovered there were hardly any learning programs available for infants. She signed herself and her son up for an English-language music course called ‘Your Baby Needs Music,’ a program that changed her life. She became an instructor in the program herself and studied how music, rhythm, and movement enhanced brain development. It gratified her social work instincts that in her weekly sessions, ‘Jews, Christians, and Moslems sang nursery rhymes together and watched as their babies smiled when they saw their accomplishments appreciated by the crowd.’

Back in the States, at Enoch Pratt, she put these elements together into an award-winning program called Mother Goose on the Loose, which attracts mothers and babies from all over the city. The program, a key factor in the selection of Enoch Pratt as the best family library by readers of Baltimore Magazine, earned the 2002 Godfrey Award for Excellence in Public Libraries for Families and Children.

Her career has convinced Diamant-Cohen that librarians benefit from moving outside their comfort zones, working with other organizations that have common interests, and learning from those outside the profession as well as within it. By being too comfortable with our traditional services, Diamant-Cohen says, we can miss out on opportunities to reinvent libraries and make them more central to our public.




Current Position: Children’s Programming Specialist, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore
Degree: MLS, Rutgers, 1983
Citation: From Maryland governor Parris N. Glendening for encouraging children to read, 1999