Most people know that a dog is a person’s best friend. Anna Ercoli Schnitzer knows that a dog can also be a person’s lifesaver.
Schnitzer, a liaison and disabilities librarian at the Health Sciences Libraries, spends much of her spare time doing community outreach focused on raising awareness about disabilities. One of her projects is rallying support for animal training programs that help provide therapeutic dogs to people who need them most.
“These are all dogs that either visit and comfort patients in hospital or nursing homes or live with and assist individuals who happen to have disabilities,” she says of her canine rehabilitators.
Schnitzer’s involvement with therapy dogs began five years ago, when she was part of a team organizing the annual Investing in Ability Week, a series of events sponsored by the U-M Council for Disability Concerns. “I suddenly thought that we should have working dogs in the Diag,” she says. “It would attract passersby and raise consciousness about our week.”
Raise awareness it did. Students, staff, faculty and local residents were drawn to different campus areas — including the Diag, the University Hospital, East Ann Arbor Health Center and Wolverine Tower — to meet with dogs and handlers from training groups Therapaws and Paws with a Cause. “The event was quite a big success and it grows bigger every year,” she says.
Originally from Padua, Italy, Schnitzer lived in the United States at different points during her childhood and teen years. After studying English literature at Hood College and University of Maryland, she came to U-M to pursue a graduate degree in library science.
“I have always worked in libraries,” she says. “I supported myself through college that way, and I enjoy being and working in them.” Schnitzer’s decision to work in a medical library after graduation also seemed natural — her father, father-in-law and husband all work in a medical field.
Schnitzer’s favorite part of her job is the resources she has access to. “I like the challenge of new online information and cutting-edge technology,” she says. “I have to run in place like the Red Queen (from Alice in Wonderland) just to keep up.”
Though she is busy with her philanthropy and her career, Schnitzer says she couldn’t do any of it without the support of her husband and three sons. And although she loves working with animals, “we don’t have any pets at home right now. I guess that is why it is a particular pleasure to see the dogs visit us on campus every October during Investing in Ability Week.”
At the end of the day, Schnitzer does what she does for the joy of it. “My greatest passion is working to improve the physical and virtual accessibility to all of our community, regardless of individual physical or mental challenges,” she says.
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Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, on her greatest passion: “Working to improve the physical and virtual accessibility to all of our community, regardless of individual physical or mental challenges.”