This is a fact: the demand for library services is growing faster than our population. On the one hand, that's good: Douglas County likes its libraries.
Nationwide, library checkouts are growing by about 2 or 3 percent annually. In Douglas County, they have grown by 124% over the past five years.
By contrast, our population growth, which is impressive by itself, has only jumped by 44 percent in the same period.
Not long ago, we finished up our public meetings around the county, collecting responses to our long range plans. One of the questions that came up a couple of times, and then came up again from a staff member recently, was this: why don't we charge for some services as a way to raise money?
Back when I was in library school, I did a research paper on the founding of Illinois libraries. It turned out that over 97% of them were formed by women's groups, mostly in the late 1800s.
Women's groups, as a whole arm of societal effort, were mostly the result of women's being locked out of the work force. There was a lot of untapped intelligence, energy, and organizational expertise in those women. But there were few approved outlets.
My wife, son and I have just returned from a trip to Europe. It was part family vacation, and part a sobering task: dropping off our daughter at university in Germany.
Our first stop was London, where we'd rented a room at a bed and breakfast. We did some touristy things: a trip to the enormous Ferris Wheel of the London Eye, the Globe Theatre, the British Museum, an Aquarium by the Thames. But mostly, we did a lot of walking.