Distance Learning Librarian Interview

by Christine Scherer

Northwestern University has a vast library system, one that can seem overwhelming to students and faculty alike. Librarians are available to help navigate the NU libraries, and there’s a librarian who is dedicated to working with online faculty and students. Tracy Coyne fills this role as the current Distance Learning Librarian at Schaffner Library, where she has worked for over two years. We asked Tracy a few questions about her role as DL Librarian and the services and supports she provides.


SPS Distance Learning: Can you broadly describe what the Distance Learning Librarian does?

TC: Overall, I am here to support the faculty and students of the School of Professional Studies and the work they do. I create online reference sites for classes and maintain the collection of resources available for online classes (ebooks and ejournals), which includes purchasing new titles. I also provide online library instruction sessions, most often in class groups via Adobe Connect, but I also work with individuals over the phone and by e-mail. In addition, I’m available to answer questions from individuals who request help with their research.


SPS Distance Learning: What are some of the most common questions you get, from faculty or students, as DL librarian?

TC: The most common request is to get help researching a topic. Typically, a student is finding that the keywords and phrases they are using are not yielding good results.


SPS Distance Learning: What are two services that you provide that you wish more people knew about?

TC: Online faculty and students have access to books and materials from other universities through our Interlibrary Loan service. The library will ship the books to your home. In addition, Schaffner Library offers free Math and Writing tutorial services by appointment that are accessible to online students via Skype. You can learn more about online tutoring at the Math Place and the Writing Place.


SPS Distance Learning: What advice would you give to new DL faculty on how to utilize the NU libraries in their courses?

TC: It would be great if faculty could put a link to the Schaffner Library homepage on their Canvas course page! They could also put my contact information on the course page and encourage students to contact me for research assistance.

I am also happy to create and post a class page tailored to your class. A class page usually includes links to relevant databases and ejournals, as well as links to help for common writing and researching questions. I need a ten-day lead time to make a class page. Faculty who are interested can contact me directly.


To learn more about the many services that Tracy and the Schaffner Library provide to online students and faculty, you can contact her via phone at (312) 503-6617 or e-mail at tracy-coyne@northwestern.edu.