Campus Collaborations: eLearning and the White Library

When Michigan went into a sudden lockdown due to COVID-19 during the Spring 20 semester, our university shifted personnel around to meet the needs caused by moving to remote learning and work. Our team gained additional staff to support the influx of requests, including dedicated help from the White Library. With the stronger ties between us, we’ve able to work together to creatively address these needs.

Elizabeth Walker-Papke, Librarian, Online and Distance Learning; Associate; Professor of Library Science; and informally Supervisor, The Workroom, has worked closely with the eLearning team since mid-March. From resolving long-standing copyright issues to communicating pedagogy and other resources with faculty to adapting LibGuides to fit changing needs, Elizabeth continues to help improve the quality of our courses. I’ve asked her to join me for an interview to discuss how she views this collaboration.

An interview with Elizabeth from the White Library

Elizabeth Walker-Papke is the Online and Distance Learning Librarian at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, MI. She has worked with the non-traditional and/or online student population in the university setting for the past 15 years: the first seven years was spent as a staff member at a prior institution. She has served in her present position as a faculty member/librarian since June, 2012 after she earned her MLS from Indiana University. Elizabeth currently works with both traditional and non-traditional students and wears several different hats: collection developer and liaison for 8 subject areas; supervisor of a project production lab; reference librarian; educator in information literacy/research; and manager of her library’s 24/7 chat participation in an academic library consortium. You can find Elizabeth tweeting about professional stuff (mostly at conferences) as @ellywalk.

Jessica: What collaborations between eLearning and the White Library have you enjoyed the most? Which one do you feel most benefited students and faculty?

Elizabeth: Genuinely, I’ve enjoyed so many aspects of our increased teamwork! The increased collegiality has given me a chance to see that there are so many aspects of our teams that work in tandem with one another. The eLearning team has a genuine desire to serve the SAU community and there is so much combined knowledge here. If I have to choose one aspect of our partnership that has most benefited the community at large, I would point toward an outcome rather than an event – together, we’ve been able to “trade information” more quickly, thus serving students and faculty alike in a more comprehensive, accurate, and quick manner. With each team having better access to the other, we’ve discovered ways to share appropriate knowledge and that sharing, combined with individual expertise, has made for a really winning combination in our service to each other and the SAU community.

Jessica: As the distance library, what increase in questions or needs have you seen from online and blended students and faculty? What gaps can we address to support them during the pandemic?

Elizabeth: Some of what I’ve noticed, while having existed pre-pandemic, seems to have been amplified by our current emergency situation. I think that there is a great need for faculty to partner up with the combined eLearning and Library teams to see how we can best address classroom needs in a cost-effective manner. All of us – whether teaching the classroom or helping support those needs – have the best interests of SAU at heart. I think there is a lack of overall knowledge of what our teams can do to better assist faculty to make their jobs easier as well as to help reduce the outflow of cash in that there are more subscription tools we can work together to leverage in the form of searching databases for classroom supplements, open educational resources (OER), materials that can be implemented to reduce cash spend for the students and faculty, and other ways to integrate both library tools and technology into the learning management system (LMS), which is Blackboard here at SAU. People are just stretched so thin, and we have been traditionally working in separate silos, that I think we just need to find a way to have some sort of sharing session so that everyone is more on the same page. The eLearning team has so much knowledge in terms of course writing – I don’t know if faculty realize the gift they have in this team. This team isn’t looking to tell them what content they have to teach; rather, they come alongside the teaching professional with their electronic course writing expertise and helping it be presented in the best way it can be. Moral of the story – tearing down the silos between departments has been beneficial for our departments, and I’d encourage other faculty to find out more about how we can help support you. We’d love to share in your process!

Jessica: What changes or tools implemented during COVID would you like to continue to be used by the library after the pandemic ends?

Elizabeth: As alluded to in an earlier answer, the deconstruction of the preexisting silos between the library and eLearning departments has been a blessing and I continue to learn so much from this team as we work together. I’d love to see a continued working relationship between our departments – Gary [Tucker] has had a dream of an eventual “Hub” between these departments to bring relevant groups together for a stronger team that can more quickly and efficiently build and support courses, and I’m completely here for that idea!

Jessica: Is there anything you’ve taken back into the library from working with the eLearning team?

Elizabeth: Oh goodness, yes. There has been a lot of serendipitous discovery even in just me getting to be a part of the bi-weekly eLearning stand-up meetings. Your team and ours is comprised of a mix of staff and faculty; those members also serve on different service teams on campus. As we come together and conversations naturally occur, it leads to new discoveries on what courses are starting and where; conversations happen about how to better support a program, or give me ideas on where we might need to start making library support material, or one of us has an upcoming project and someone on either your team or mine knows of someone whose participation would be instrumental given their university ties…but maybe the other team was unaware because they’re not sitting in the same meetings. It has brought awareness of shared goals (better development of distance learning; OER incentives; etc) and reinforced ways we could continue to build connections and help the University move forward…

Jessica: We’ve agreed whole-heartedly that the collaboration between eLearning and the White Library has gone well. How we could use this encourage other interdepartmental collaborations at the university?

Elizabeth: I can’t emphasize the power of conversation enough. None of us has the mental capacity or the time to learn everything ourselves, but when we all share openly and without regard to ego, we can achieve so much. I would encourage departments to have “coffee hour” with another team. Perhaps your team has technology issues, and could benefit from learning more about Cynthia Churchwell, Aaron Sanford, and Caleb Shotts. Maybe you have an idea about how you’d like to do some flipped classroom instruction but don’t know how to get it done – see the eLearning gurus. I genuinely believe that, the more divisions we break down and the increased collaborations we seek, we all become better for it.

Jessica: Thank you for joining us on Model eLearning, Elizabeth. I hope we continue to see collaborations between the White Library and eLearning team throughout the pandemic and beyond.

Elizabeth: Thanks for your time, Jessica. I truly wish the same!

Future of eLearning and Library Collaborations

Some of the best collaborations come from meeting a shared need. Prior to the pandemic, many universities built interdisciplinary teams to support students and faculty. These teams often include instructional designers and librarians who work together to build sound pedagogy practices and curated information resources. The benefits of such collaborations make sense with the overlapping nature of the two fields. Perhaps in the future we’ll continue to see a strengthening of this type of bond at our own university.

What collaborations have you seen on your campuses since the start of the pandemic? Have you seen positive change to adapt to sudden needs? Let us know!

Author: Jessica Bishop, Instructional Designer

Jessica is a designer and writer focused on learnability, storytelling, sensemaking, wayfinding, and removing barriers to learning. A Michigan native, she likes crafting, reading, walking, and spending way too much time in the distant corners of the internet. You can also find her at

3 thoughts on “Campus Collaborations: eLearning and the White Library”

  1. What a great example of the power of networking and open communication! I believe we need to share so much more (in every aspect of our professional work). Because our learning community loves students, sharing with one another (knowledge, processes, tools) will make our service to students even more substantial.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Gwen. Sharing our knowledge, processes, tools, and indeed, passion for learning, in open communication will build a stronger learning community for all of us.

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