A longtime professional librarian at the Library of Congress and community activist on Capitol Hill died peacefully at her home on Monday at the age of 74, surrounded by loved ones. She lived and worked on Capitol Hill for five decades.
Donna Wills Scheeder was born Nov. 8, 1947 in Buffalo, New York, the only child of Detta Gorman Wills and Joseph Morris Wills. After attending Mount St. Joseph Academy in Buffalo, where she was on the championship debate squad, she enrolled at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign when the school only admitted a total of 25 women a year. She graduated in 1969 (among her more notable classmates was the 42nd U.S. President).
Donna not only had a successful career at the Library of Congress, she played an outsized and active role in both the Capitol Hill community, where she lived for more than five decades, and the international library community.
On Capitol Hill, she launched her political career in the 1970s, upending more established Ward Six Democrats with a surprise win as precinct captain on her first attempt at an elected post. She later won a seat on the Democratic State Committee. She is well known for her role as the Ward Six appointee and chair of the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC), where she shepherded a $22 million rebuild of the historic structure after it was gutted by fire in 2007. She served on the board of EMCAC for a total of 18 years. She was a founding board member and foundation president of the Hill Center and active in the advisory task force that redesigned Eastern Market Metro Plaza Park and playground.
Donna was president (2015-2017) of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and served on the governing board from 2009 until the time of her passing. She was widely respected for her advocacy and determination that libraries are places to advance the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. She visited scores of countries during her time as IFLA president, including the Russian State Library on the initiative of the Margarita Rudomino State Library of Foreign Literature. For 45 years, she was a member of the Special Libraries Association (SLA), where she served as president and was elected to the SLA Hall of Fame.
At the Library of Congress, Donna began her career as a research assistant and rose through the ranks to serve as Director of Congressional Research Service (CRS), Director of Law Library Services, retiring in 2015 as Deputy Chief Information Officer of CRS. She was an early advocate for integrating computers into libraries and introduced a number of new services during her career, including establishing the first collection of legal blogs and instituting the Electronic Briefing Book product for members of Congress. Over the years, she was an active presenter at national and international conferences, which continued even through the pandemic when those gatherings went virtual. She was a member of the Library of Congress Advisory Council.
Donna loved her Capitol Hill home and her beach house on Fenwick Island, DE. To close friends, she was a tremendous hostess and chef, and an avid baseball (Go Nats!) fan. She loved a Friday night game of Tonk at the American Legion Post on Capitol Hill.
Early in adulthood she was married to Louis Scheeder, a one-time director of the Folger Theatre Group in Washington, DC.
She is survived by her partner of many years, Peter Waldron of Washington, DC, her cousin Lauretta Ashbrook of Springfield, PA, and dear friends from far and near.
A memorial service will take place at Hill Center at a date to be determined. In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory may be made to: Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003.
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