Four. That's how many newspapers were outside my door this morning.
When I was growing up we used to have our milk delivered. I'm sure there were several reasons for this: a hold-over from when refrigeration wasn't as good and a lack of second cars to lug the milk around being the main ones. Over the years 'milkmen' have just about disappeared -- the last one delivering in our neighborhood retired a couple of years ago and no one replaced him. I would have predicted that fewer people would be visiting houses each day not more, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
I only paid cash for one of those papers. The others are either free, a 3-month trial, or from frequent-flyer miles (use them or lose them, and I never seem to accumulate enough to use them for free flights). But yesterday was trash day: three different trucks went by our house picking up the main trash, recycling, and lawn debris. Not to mention the possibility of another one I didn't use for large items. Over the course of a week I calculate:
- 6 mail deliveries
- 3+ trash pickups
- 23 different newspapers and flyers
That's just for our house. I know there at least a couple of daily papers we don't get, not to mention all the dry-cleaner deliveries, solicitations, school buses, FedEx, UPS, etc. There are literally hundreds of commercial cars and trucks in our neighborhood every week!
So, what does this mean to libraries? I have to admit it wasn't as obvious to me as it was to Stu Weibel. This is the last mile problem: getting physical objects to people. Although libraries are more and more about digital objects, the local library business will continue to have a physical presence for a long time to come. Lorcan Dempsey likes to talk about library logistics. Academic libraries do pretty well at getting items to users via campus mail. Publics have a ways to go. And interlibrary loan should be easier for everyone.