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Outdoor library instruction workshops

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“I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”
Albert Einstein

Stanford University’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) offers classes that guide students in developing analytical and research-based argument skills. Students take PWR 2 classes in their second year to continue building the aforementioned skills. PWR 2 consists of research projects that allow students to research, write, translate, and deliver an in-depth investigation.

The Libraries support PWR by offering instruction workshops that include a walking tour of the library as well as introductions to library resources. The introductory workshops for PWR 1 are usually a one-shot class that lasts 1 hour and 50 minutes. However, PWR 2 classes have different format options because these serve as “refresher” library workshops. Librarians tend to visit the classrooms for PWR 2 workshops or sit outside of the classroom for individual consultations. This year we experimented with a new format which took place outside in front of the library. Kathleen Tarr, a PWR 2 instructor, was assigned Felicia Smith as her class librarian.

In the last year, a few librarians noticed a trend that students followed the tours on their personal devices instead of using laptops. Fortunately, the library website, online catalog (SearchWorks), and databases were recently redesigned to enhance the user experience for those using mobile devices. This allowed us to experiment with class outdoors. One achievement of this experiment was that it clearly illustrated the possibilities to liberate library instruction from the shackles of the indoor classroom.