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From Soldering to Rick Steves—Just Another Day (or Two) in the Life of a Librarian

Cheri headshot

Here’s me learning to solder with the help of our fantastic (and patient) Girls Who Code leader Laurie Crittenden.

So what does soldering and travel expert Rick Steves have in common? As far as I know, nothing, except that in the last few days, they’ve been a part of my library work day.

Working every day in the library brings new surprises (both good and bad), and no two days really ever look alike. This is the result of working for an organization that serves a community with diverse interests and a mission to “educate, inspire and strengthen the Upper Dublin community.”

It was around 4:30 pm last Thursday, March 23 when I received a call from Molly telling me that our Girls Who Code group was in the courtyard soldering. The courtyard is just outside my window so I could see the girls grouped around the picnic table. I grabbed my coat and ran out to see what it was all about.

The girls were conducting an elementary soldering project. They were each constructing a circular badge that read “I can solder.” They were taking turns soldering onto the badge plate a battery case (for one of those small circular batteries), a pin, and the wires of an LED light. (As if soldering wasn’t enough, the badge also lit up a blinking LED if you soldered the wires properly!) Always a generous group, Molly and I were invited to participate, and I, for the first time, used a small soldering tool to create my own badge. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to keep your hand steady, especially when you are trying to make sure you don’t burn yourself.

Skip ahead to my family’s typical lazy Sunday morning on March 26. It’s 11:30 am and as I’m trying to shuffle the kids upstairs to get dressed, my cell phone rings. There, on the screen, it reads “Rick Steves.” Rick Steves is calling my home at 11:30 am on Sunday. This is crazy, I think!

Rick was chosen as the speaker for this year’s One County program sponsored by the libraries of Montgomery County, PA, and he’s calling me because I’m the chair of the committee that organized the event.

So that’s how my Sunday begins–with a phone call from the most trusted American travel expert. He asks if I’m happy with ticket sales or if he should plug it more at the Philadelphia Travel Show where he is, literally, about to go on stage. I, of course, don’t know how close we are to selling out since I haven’t seen a report since Friday so I waffle a little until he says just to text him. He needs to go on stage now.

With Rick Steves, the most famous face in travel. Special thanks to General Manager Judith Herbst and all of the staff at the Keswick Theatre.

My day continued with communications between Rick and me by phone and text as though we were old friends. Cheri: “Hi Rick. I’m still trying to get an update from the box office at the Keswick, but I see that I can still purchase tickets online. Could be helpful if you would make an announcement…” Rick: “Great. I see I’m picked up at 5:20. Working 7:30 to 10:00. Is there a chance to get a bite to eat there or should I eat before five?” Cheri: “You should arrive at the theater between 6/6:30. The production manager will run a sound check with you and load your PowerPoint. We will also have a meal ready for you when you arrive…” Rick: “Great thanks”

I’ve loved being a part of many author visits over the years. One of the privileges of coordinating events like this are the few minutes you get to talk with the speaker before and after their presentation. We sold 1,155 tickets to see Rick and I was going to be introducing him before the largest group of people I’ve ever spoken to. I asked him if he liked doing these talks while at the same time explaining how nervous it made me to step in front of such a large crowd. He told me I should think of them as 1,000 of my friends. The crowd is rooting for you and, often, just happy it’s not them having to talk. Some rendition of this is what I’ve tried to convince myself over the years, but the magnitude of a professional Keswick production (I had my own sound check and all!) plus Rick Steves’s fame was still too much for me to relax.

If you were there, you already know what the evening was like. Rick was refreshingly honest in sharing his views and inspiring people to travel. He encouraged the crowd to travel somewhere other than Orlando. You’ve been there five times. Why not try Portugal? It’s cheaper. He said that we are a fearful nation and that, in fact, it’s safer to travel to Europe today. “Fear is for people who don’t get out very much.” As people were leaving, you heard echoes from the crowd, people wishing each other “Bon voyage” as opposed to “Have a safe trip.”

Thinking about these experiences and so many others I’ve had thanks to the library, I realize how fortunate I am to be a librarian. I’ve worked with brilliant and caring librarians and staff, been introduced to new concepts and ideas, opened myself to challenges, and simply connected with all kinds of interesting people. Find your inspiration today at the library!