Remarks from Donor Katherine Schneider, Ph.D., L.P., ABPP

On the occasion of the first presentation of the Schneider Family Book Award

ALA Annual Conference

Orlando, Florida

June 29, 2004

When I was growing up, the librarian at the Michigan Library for the Blind was my hero. He sent me books in Braille and on records from the Library of Congress collection. To be here among librarians who daily enrich peoples’ lives with information in printed, audio, and electronic formats is a dream come true. That special librarian and my mother who read me many books that were not available in Braille or on records whetted my thirst for knowledge. The upshot of that thirst was a Ph.D. from Purdue and a very satisfying thirty-year career as a clinical psychologist.

During my father’s last illness he joked that I would probably give away my inheritance. I agreed I would, so we needed to find a cause we could agree on—I came up with the Schneider Family Book Award for children’s books about the disability experience. My mother taught the deaf before marriage and worked tirelessly to mainstream their blind child before it was mandated by law. My father worked in the pharmaceutical industry so information about diseases, conditions, and treatments was dinner table conversational material at our house. Extended family members have lived with alcoholism, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, and fibromyalgia.

In the 1950s when I was in grade school, the only media mentions of blind people were of Helen Keller, Louis Braille, and the seven blind men who went to see the elephant. Other disabilities fared no better. Fifty years later we’re here to celebrate the fact that the situation has dramatically improved. The Schneider Family Book Award committee had many wonderful children’s books to consider, which represent the experiences of the one out of seven Americans who have a disability. The disability experience in these wonderful children’s books is a part of a character’s full life, not the focus of the life.