Small or Big: is small really less?

With so many things in life, we have to choose between small or large, fancy or plain, sprinkles or no sprinkles. Roy Tennant’s latest post talks about the innovation of people not institutions. He also makes the argument that even though large institutions have more resources for innovation, those resources often come with more levels of decision making.

I agree with Roy. In my experience, bureaucracy often comes with less innovation because that is simply the nature of having multiple levels. In a large organization, you can not help but have many levels and many people who believe they should (and often do) have a say in the operations of the whole. This results in innovation moving at the speed of a sloth even if you are trying to be a turtle (at the very least).

In smaller places, there are less levels, but also less staff and resources. In a small institution you have to be more careful about how you allocate time and money because taking from one thing impacts other services with greater depth then in a larger library. I have heard from librarians in small places that they like the environment where they can play, come up with ideas, and only get one person’s permission before they implement something.

For those of you still in school or contemplating a move elsewhere, be sure that you take into consideration size when choosing your next job. Do you want the extra calories that a super sized meal will bring or would you rather go lean and mean?

–Jane, still deciding where she fits

3 thoughts on “Small or Big: is small really less?

  • September 26, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Some say small is the new big. I know that with bigger systems, it’s hard to turn the ship. Smaller is easier to react to changes. You should read Tom Peters book Re-Imagine! I am reading it now and it is fantastic!

  • September 27, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Hmm, I needed a new version of ppt to download a cool slide template and voila, my tech guy did it. No questions, no repeated prompting or stupid forms to fill out. Small is good.

  • September 28, 2007 at 8:11 am

    I am currently at a mid-size institution and really love it. Yes, there are a few layers to go through in order to change things, but I am so grateful we have the resources to provide a lot of good services. This environment suits more than a R1 or R2 institution. Ideally, I would love to work at a selective libreral arts college, but I also have a spouse to think about and we need to live in a mid-sized city. This is a fine compromise.

    Prior to this job, I was at a small public institution and found it extremely difficult to get anything meaningful done. My former colleagues were constantly at each others throats in the most painfully, passive-agressive way.

    The most important thing is to pay close attention to institutional culture and ask a lot of questions. Toxicity can infect any workplace–even a 3 employee media center.

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