The Washington, DC/ Baltimore chapter was founded September 14, 1978 by Carol Nemeyer, Assistant Librarian for National Programs, one of the three executives of Library of Congress at that time. Carol brought together people involved with books, inspiring them with a sense of common purpose. By January 1979, chapter membership stood at 82. Insightful about the workings of a volunteer organization, Carol served only a single year as president before passing the torch – she understood that to remain viable, the chapter needed to stand on its own, not as her club.
However, the inclusion of Baltimore posed some challenges – in the early days, programs were paired, held in both cities. This proved to be a drain on the board’s energies, so in the mid-80’s Mary Berghaus Levering, President 1984-1988, let the Baltimore programs lapse, and resuscitated what was by that time a flagging membership in Washington. She encouraged co-sponsorship of programs as a means of increasing WNBA’s reach as well as enhancing the contacts members could make. Mary also instituted networking brunches which continue to be successful bookends to our program year. She also oversaw the founding of Signature, our newsletter which keeps members informed about programs and other events of interest, from that pre-email era on into the present.
Over the years WNBA Washington has held some stellar programs, including co-hosting with Johns Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) an evening with Azar Nafisi in conversation with Jackie Leyden of NPR. We’ve also offered programs on such current topics as self-publishing, publicity and promotion in the internet era, copyright issues and blogging.
We have a strong commitment to literacy – at this year’s fundraiser for our literacy partner The Reading Connection, four past Presidents as well as our new President were in attendance, and WNBA provided volunteers at the event.
Members enjoy monthly gatherings of Downtown Diners – a member circulates an email in which those interested agree on a date and place, then anywhere from a handful to twenty, gather to discuss our activities in the congenial, mutually-supportive manner which is one of the hallmarks of our chapter.