"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

Oct 2, 2010

Tiny ponies

(Note to folks reading this on Facebook: If you could come to the actual post on my blog to reply to this one, I'd be grateful. It would be nice to have a discussion visible to people other than my Facebook friends. ;)  )

If you have not recently had cause to Google "tiny pony apple", then you may not have seen this amusing blog post about a small horse the author encountered in an Apple store that no one else in the store seemed to notice.

The post itself is very funny, but I'm not highlighting it here because of its humor. After telling his story, the author makes a broader point:

Since then, John and I have a term called a “tiny pony.” It is a thing that is exceptional that no one, for whatever reason, notices. Or, conversely, it is an exceptional thing that everyone notices, but quickly grows acclimated to despite the brilliance of it all.
Cell phones and the ability to make a phone call to anyone from anywhere is a tiny pony. The instant gratification provided by being able to have almost any question answered immediately is a tiny pony. Airplanes are tiny ponies. A black president, whose father is from Kenya and mother is from Kansas, being elected President of the United States is a tiny pony.
When does the magic of a situation fade? When do we get acclimated to the exceptional?Is this how we get by? Would anything get done if we were constantly gobsmacked? Is this how we survive, how we stay sane? We define a pattern, no matter how exceptional, and acclimate ourselves to it?
In the library world, I think we spend a lot of time talking about how to better market ourselves and the services we provide to our patrons. A lot of the time, the problem is that people aren't really aware of what we do. But I think that some of the problem is also that people know what we do but don't stop to think about how great it is that we can do these things for them.

What are the tiny ponies in libraries? How can we encourage the public to be consciously aware of these things? Is there a way to keep our clientele from getting "acclimated to the exceptional" when they interact with libraries, to maintain a high level of awareness and appreciation of the things we can do?

It seems to me that if we can answer these questions, we can start finding some really good ways to develop a deep sense of attachment and engagement in more of our patrons. We provide potentially memorable experiences to patrons every day. How can we help our patrons to view them as really memorable/exceptional/impressive?

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