Aim: Fewer patient encounters and diminished bedside teaching pose a challenge to medical students' opportunity to learn during clinical clerkships in psychiatry. Videos can be used for close examination of signs and symptoms and to increase engagement and recall. A video library holding recordings of psychiatric patients with mental status examinations were prepared. We explored the students' use of this library during their clerkships.Methods and materials: The video library was introduced to three rotations of medical students and made accessible on hospital computers. Four students volunteered as key informants and were followed daily throughout the clerkship by the first author, using the ethnographic method of participant observation. At the end of the clerkship, group interviews were conducted with each rotation of students, including the key informants. Twelve students participated in the study. Field notes taken during participant observation and the transcribed interviews were merged in a thematic analysis.Results: The analysis reveals the students' autonomous and arbitrary use of the video library. Creatively extending the use of the videos, they scheduled their video sessions according to their individual needs. The students furthermore blended experiences gained from the library and in the ward, thus coping in various ways with the shortcomings of the video library.Conclusions: The medical students felt they benefited from the simplified learning situation offered by the video library. Their frequent shortcuts through the videos during sessions highlighted weaknesses in the feedback and reflection processes occasioned by the library.