“Are you sure you want to take this on?” ECPI University President Mark Dreyfus asked on a campus tour in the early nineties. “It’s a lot.”
“Yes, I do,” answered Rebecca Tabakin, the university’s first on- campus Library Coordinator. “I love a challenge.”
“We wanted to make it accessible to all—and inviting. ECPI excels at customer service. So, I saw myself creating a space that would make it easy to provide customer service.”– Rebecca Tabakin, ECPI University Library Director
As the pair finished their campus tour, they were pleased to find their goals and vision aligned. It has been thirty years since she first stepped foot on campus, and this vision has not only come to life—it is thriving. “Mark Dreyfus had a vision,” Rebecca reminisces. “And as soon as I, like everyone else, caught the enthusiasm of that vision, I realized we were going to grow.”
From Library Coordinator of one location to Library Director overseeing nearly twenty, Rebecca has cultivated the growth of the university’s campus libraries. “When I arrived here, there was no library manual of how to do things,” she says. Rebecca got to work developing a system from the ground up. She moved the books to a larger space, and optimized the layout to position the librarian’s desk by the doors to better greet students.
Each new ECPI University campus library is now planned by an architect. “We wanted to make it accessible to all—and inviting. ECPI excels at customer service. So, I saw myself creating a space that would make it easy to provide customer service.”
Rebecca oversees the architectural plans for each new library. She meets, interviews, and often mentors the librarians for each. She also manages visits from the different accrediting bodies which circulate constantly through all the campuses, reviewing various degree programs.
“For every new academic program, there’s an accreditation body,” she explains. “So, it’s not … every ten years, we have an accreditation visit. It’s constant. Because if our campus is going to add a program, we want to meet the criteria and the standards and be accredited by a certain body. That includes the library. The library is a service department like student services, career services, and financial services.”
ECPI University has always been a forward-thinking academic institution, and managing the libraries is no different. Even the physical limitations of a library’s walls have not slowed her progress—ECPI favors e-books and digital academic databases.
“We had a definitive space, so we couldn’t keep adding print editions,” she says. “And that prompted us to expand our online resources.”
One of Rebecca’s most impactful contributions has been the addition of a consortium—a digital association of libraries which share resources, activities, and information. Each campus library must offer consistency—the same resources, academic studies, and knowledge.
“We knew that big or small, the campuses were going to have a library and a librarian,” she says. “We knew that we were going to maintain consistency and that we wanted quality resources. And one of the ways to maintain consistency is electronic resources.”
The campus libraries are also the home of ECPI University’s on-demand tutoring, writing assistance center, and mathematics assistance center. Many of the campus libraries house not only the knowledge base for the main colleges (technology, nursing, health sciences, business, and criminal justice) but also those of our trade schools including the Culinary Arts of Virginia (CIV) and the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI).
Rebecca has accomplished so much at ECPI University’s libraries and beyond. She has served on the Virginia Library Association and the VA Tidewater Consortia for Higher Education; she has sponsored many librarian programs and trained as well as mentored many new librarians. She enjoys the networking aspect and rubbing elbows with her fellow librarians.
When asked about her thirty years spent transforming ECPI University’s libraries, she glows with pride.
“The biggest difference from when I started before is that now I am plugged into every location. I direct the libraries, and not just the Virginia Beach location,” says Rebecca. “I’ve never worked so hard—and with so much heart.”