I took the call in my office. She introduced herself, and asked if I'd be willing to come to Birmingham to be one of the speakers at a seminar that she'd been planning. The "theme" was new directors who had recently taken over from very well regarded predecessors and how they were managing things, particularly in relation to serials budgets.
"Sure," I said. "In fact, I've just been working on some budget analysis, so this is good timing."
"Great," she said. "Now can you do it next Thursday?"
I paused for just a moment. "Sure, I can manage that, but you'll need to fly me back through Chicago on Friday. I'm supposed to meet my girlfriend up there for the weekend."
"No problem, and thanks a lot for doing this."
That was my first conversation with Lynn. I knew who she was, of course, and had even laid eyes on her the previous fall at the chapter meeting in Rapid City. I'd been sitting in the hotel lobby during a break, writing in my journal, when a small and very attractive woman walked determinedly across the lobby to one of the meeting rooms. "Who...?" I knew she wasn't a chapter member. Flipping through the program to find out who was presenting next in that room told me who she was. But I had other things on my mind at that meeting and didn't encounter her again.
In those days, only a couple of years into her tenure with EBSCO, one of her major activities was to organize "directors seminars." She'd invite a dozen or fifteen library directors, some of them customers and some not, to attend a two day meeting at world headquarters in Birmingham. She arranged it like a mini-conference, with several speakers from among the group, lots of good discussion, and a couple of fine meals. It gave the directors some insight into the latest thinking of the company's strategic direction, and they served as a bit of a focus group as the managers rolled out some of their new ideas. There was no sales pitch, no stock overview of current offerings. Having been interim director at LHL for a time just a few years earlier, she had a good handle on what would be a good and productive use of the directors' time, and the seminars tended to be very satisfactory to all concerned.
I was not first on her list to attend. In fact, for this particular seminar, I wasn't on the list at all. But to her distress, one of her chosen speakers had to back out just two weeks before the event. And when she started calling around for someone who fit her theme and who could be expected to put together a decent presentation in short order, my name kept coming up.
So I put together some notes, and off I went to Birmingham. I recall looking down at the UAB campus from The Club overlooking the city. Lynn pointed out the Lister Hill Library, where she used to work, and I said, politely, that if I ever came back to town I'd have to see if I could arrange a tour.
I remember the notes I wrote afterwards on the flight to Chicago for my weekend with Laura. I was very impressed with Lynn's attention to all of the details, and how considerate she was of each of her guests. I recalled in particular how she timed things for a late arrival to the first evening's reception -- she had the person who picked him up at the airport call to say that they were on their way, then kept half an eye on the clock, so she could meet him at the door with a drink at just the moment that he walked in.
It was also very clear from my conversations with her during the social events that she had two main preoccupations, her daughter and her job, and there wasn't much room for anything else. There were allusions to a boyfriend, but romance was clearly a distant third. I was single and she was damned attractive, so I fantasized idly, as men do, but I knew there was nothing in it.
Little did I know. When I arrived in Birmingham, I took a cab out to the hotel where they were putting us up, unpacked, and then went down to the lobby to gather for the van that would take us to dinner. I knew a couple of the other directors and we made a bit of small talk while we waited. Then, that same small and energetic woman I'd first seen in Rapid City came into the lobby, greeting those she knew, introducing herself to the others. She held her hand out to me and grinned, "And you must be Scott."
"I must be," I said. It would be more than a year and a half after that meeting before our lives became entwined, but that moment, when we first shook hands, marks the beginning of all that has gone on since.
At dinner last night, she tapped her glass of wine against mine, and said again, "And you must be Scott." Fifteen years ago to the day.