Stromness Academy Library

Books, reading and life in a school library

May 9, 2022
by Mrs Sinclair

Keep the Heid – Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. We are promoting a public library initiate, ‘Keep the Heid and Read!‘to promote and celebrate the power of reading with regards to mental health and wellbeing.

“To celebrate the power of reading, libraries and good mental health, you are being asked to pledge SIX minutes on Wednesday 11th May 2022 and devote it to reading.

Why? Because taking some time for yourself to relax and do things you enjoy like reading is important to help look after your mental health and wellbeing.

It has been scientifically proven that reading for just SIX minutes a day boosts your mental health by 68%.” (Keep the Heid, 2022)

To join in the ‘Reading Moment’, pledge to read 6 minutes on Wednesday 11th May here. There is still time for the target of 300,000 minutes to be met.

At Stromness Academy we are encouraging staff an pupils to read for 6 minutes and all our S1-3 have been pledge as a group. There will be a display of fiction and non-fiction books in the school library whic are available for borrowing. These include books from the Empathy Lab reading list as well, many which deal with mental health, as well as helping to building empathy in our young readers.

‌Links to Mental Health support services can be found on the school website and in LearnPath in OLIVER, the school library Catalogue.

Links to Information on Reading & Mental Health

National Literacy Trust. (2018). Mental wellbeing, reading and writing. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 May 2022]. (2021). Reading Well. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 May 2022].

Why (2018). Why reading can be good for mental health. [online] MHFA Portal. Available at: [Accessed 9 May 2022].

January 10, 2022
by Mrs Sinclair

A New Year in the School Library

That’s us back in school after a needed Christmas break. Hope everyone got much needed rest and that you had a good festive season. This term, we will be continuing with the usual lunchtime activities in the library, as well as supporting learning and teaching, project research, Accelerated Reader (AR), and your reading interests.

Library Periods & Accelerated Reader

S1-S2 have timetabled time in the library once a week during English. Other year groups might also come on an ad hoc basis. During library time, pupils can select and borrow books, read quietly, and do AR quizzes, use the online catalogue, OLIVER to search for books or check their loan records. From time-to-tome, there may be library induction activities, for example, learning to use OLIVER, how to find resources, note taking, research skills. Pupils are also given a chance to suggest books for the library.

During this time your teacher or the librarian may talk to you about your reading, finding out what you like, and giving recommendations. You will also be told your AR levels. It is recommended that you read within or above your level to help improve your reading which also has a positive impact on your learning across all subjects. You don’t always have to read an AR levelled book but it is important you do read some and do the quizzes.

OLIVER & LearnPath

Remember to use the library catalogue to help you find books in the library, including other books similar to what you searched for. If you are logged into your account it will also give you recommendations based on what you have previously borrowed.  Speak to Mrs Sinclair if you have forgotten your login details.

LearnPath is part of OLIVER and is a collection of curated weblinks and other information to help with you subjects, project research, and course choice.

Library is open at lunchtimes for reading, research, homework, computer access and activities. Please be aware due to split lunches, there may be a class. They will get priority over computers and use of the upper library. This means users will need to be quiet. Pupils requiring to do school work or Accelerated Reader quizzes will always get priority over leisure use of the computers.
Lunch passes for these specific activities can be picked up from the library of front office.

Lunchtime Activities​

  • Monday – Miniature Painting: some miniatures available for you to paint or bring your own. Paint and brushes supplied.
  • Tuesday – Chess Club (and other board games)
  • Wednesday: No specific activity. You can choose: Magic the Gathering, Colouring, Reading, Manga Club… or suggest something you’d like to do and we’ll see if it is possible.
  • Thursday  Dungeons & Dragons: Discussion, character creation, help understanding the rules, RPG reading, possibly even a short game.
  • Friday – library not available for lunchtime use due to Friday activities.

Tuesday After School 15:35-16:45

  • Dungeons & Dragons: Experienced players – waiting list for Mrs Sinclair’s Rime of the Frostmaiden game (S3-6), or set up your own group.
  • Homework & Study: Computers available
  • Names to Mrs Sinclair before the end of the school day on Tuesday

The COVID Stuff

Mitigations are still in place. Please be mindful the library is used by a lot of people.

  • Windows are on ventilation or are opened fully when the library is busy – please do not close them. Make sure you wear warm clothing as it can get quite cold.
  • Sanitise your hands on entering and leaving the library as well as in between handling books, board games, and other resources.
  • Clean shared equipment: computer keyboards and mice, desk, and chair levers after you used them. Also wipe down chairs and desks where you have sat. NB. Staff will spray down desks after classes have been in.
  • Wear your masks properly at all times, ensuring your nose and mouth are fully covered.
  • Keep your distance from staff at all times and from each other. Library furniture is arrange to help with this.

Overdue Books

Please return or renew all books borrowed before the Christmas holidays.

August 26, 2021
by Mrs Sinclair

Dungeons & Dragons, Role Playing Games, and Donations

Over the last few years we have had a number of generous donations for our D&D and miniature painting groups which has enabled us to support the larger numbers of pupils opting into our Friday afternoon [timetabled] activity, on occasion been as high as 39 which is more than 10% of our school roll. Currently we are at 26 across two sessions. In addition there is also a smaller group consisting of the more experienced players and those who DM groups on Fridays on a Tuesday after school.

Out most recent donations come from Stephen Hart at The Grinning Frog. Abracadabra arrived in February in the middle of lockdown and more recently we have received issues of The Oracle, a theme based magazine.

Abracadabra: a guide to becoming a magical games master is a substantial and beautifully illustrated book which was donated as a memorial gift after the original backer of the Kickstarter project sadly passed away. Packed full of tips, ideas and prompt, it has already drawn some attention for the DMs who are worldbuilding.

The Oracle, of which we now have five editions is a monthly system neutral magazine. Each one is based on a theme, eg. Shadowrealms, frozen north, love and romance, for example.

Not only can I see a use for these resources sparking off ideas for RPGs and our D&D groups, but as a general resource for sparking off any creative writing that might be done in classes, or by pupils who write as a hobby.

Thank you, Grinning Frog! We have all been grinning here!

June 17, 2021
by Mrs Sinclair

Using Google (& other search engines)

How often have you put a word or phrase or sentence into a search in Google or other search engine? Do you ask a question?  Do you get lots of irrelevant results when you do this?

When you search for words or phrases in a search engine, it searches for ALL the words except stop words.

horses and ponies of the British Isles

If you typed the above search into  a search engine you will get results for: horses; ponies; british; isles as well as combinations of those words. This means you may get a lot of irrelevant results. When searching for specific information you really need to be specific in your search. You also don’t need to type in words such as and; of; in; a; an; am; are; at; the; and so on as the search engine ignores them.

Use Eight Tips to Google Like a Pro, from the News Literacy Project. It will give you tips on effective searching in Google, but these tips usually apply in other search engines as well. (NB. See below for a list of alternatives to Google including ones that don’t track your data.)











Other Search Engines

You don’t always need to rely on Google, which actually tracks your browsing habits, sharing the information with advertisers and others. There are plenty of others out there. Why not try:

Bing – does collect your data

Duck Duck Go – Doesn’t track your searches.

Ecosia – donates 80% of its profits to planting trees.

Google Scholar – for academic and scholarly information.

Swisscows – Based in Switzerland. Shows related queries. Family friendly content. Treats your privacy seriously. Uses money earned through advertising to fund projects to provide food and education to disadvantage children in the likes of Haiti and Columbia.

The search engines below are called ‘Meta Search Engines’ as they pull results from the likes of Google, Bing, and other search engines in one place:



April 29, 2021
by Mrs Sinclair

Library back in Action

All pupils have now been back for just under two weeks and we are getting into the swing of things again. Some classes have been coming in, in particular, the S2 History classes for the Explorers project. Small S3 groups are booked to use PCs for the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI), and small groups or individuals have been coming from English or other subjects to return or borrow books as well as use the PCs. It is very nice to touch base with many of the regular library users, who are now visiting at break or lunchtime and the Senior Phase lunchtime Dungeons & Dragons group has now restarted. S6 pupils have been using both the upper and lower library for study and have access to the computers, however many have their own laptops which they are encouraged to use.

S2 Explorers

During the first week back the library saw all S2 History classes visiting to be introduced to OLIVER, the new online library catalogue, being given a chance to log in, change passwords and explore the site.

They were also introduced to LearnPath, which is used to curate information (videos, documents, websites, etc) on specific topics. There are now a few guides available and these will, in due course, replace all the LiveBinders in the Subject Links section of this blog with.






Book Borrowing

Book borrowing is still minimal but is picking up. Pupils and staff are encouraged to return their overdue books, some of which date back to the first lock down. Overdue reminders are now sent to users via their Glow email. Pupils should be encouraged to check emails regularly, including the junk folder as sometimes the emails via Oliver end up in it.

Everyone should check emails sent at the beginning of February as that was when instructions, usernames, passwords for Oliver were sent to everyone. Users, when logged in can check check their profiles, current loans, loan history, create favourites, save searches, write book reviews, and make reservations, all from any school PC, the comfort of home, and on the go using a mobile phone or tablet. Pupils can also search for books on the Accelerated Reader programme. Use the Accelerated Reader Search in Oliver. It can be found on the home page or select the option from the ‘Search’ menu.

Pupils can borrow books for up to 4 weeks:

S1 – 3: 4 books
S4 – 6: 6 books
Staff: 15 books

Anyone can ask to be able to borrow more books if appropriate. Books can only be borrowed if the pupil has not outstanding loans, which is why it is important for the overdue books to be returned. Returned books should be placed in the black box in the window bay at the top of the slope into the library and Mrs Sinclair informed.

The COVID Stuff

To enable the library to keep functioning and be available to all we are still encouraging social distancing between pupils. In the main, this is because the library also functions as a social area. The Reference Section has now been reinstated (after being used as a storage area) which means we have a little more capacity in the Lower Library where we can seat 12 at tables (with flexible option for up to 16 if required), 11 individual chairs, and 9 at PCs. The Upper Library can seat 22 at tables and is where the research classes are now based and has access to screen, projector and laptop (for staff), and small whiteboard.

Key points

  • Sanitise hands on entering and leaving the library, and in between sections when browsing books, and before and after using stationery or computers.
  • When browsing keep handling of books to a minimum.
  • Clean desks, chairs (including adjustment leavers on PC chairs), computer keyboards and mice after use.
  • Leave windows open or on ventilation setting. Wear warm clothing
  • Leave furniture where it is.
  • Return books to quarantine box.
  • Use good cough and sneeze etiquette (into elbow crook or a tissue).
  • Sit in seats rather than wander about.
  • Maintain social distancing as far as is possible. (You will be reminded regularly.)








January 13, 2021
by Mrs Sinclair

OLIVER – Online Library Catalogue

OLIVER, our new online catalogue is now live.

It gives access to the library catalogue from anywhere you can get the internet through a browser or an app you can download for your phone or tablet.

Pupils and staff can do the following:
  • Browse the library catalogue (including recommendations based on what you have borrowed – when logged in)
  • Search the catalogue (including an advanced search and an accelerated Reader specific search)
  • Search genres, reading lists, Accelerated Reader books
  • See what’s popular, recently returned, highly rated
  • Borrow eBooks and audiobooks via Oliver and/or the ePlatform (*Trial extended to end of February*)

The following requires pupils and staff to be logged in. You should have all received emails with login details for both Oliver and the ePlatform (eBooks and audiobooks)

  • Reserve books remotely
  • Get access to eBooks and audiobooks and borrow them directly via the catalogue and read or listen to them through the ePlatform website or app
  • See what you have on loan, your overdue books, and your loan history
  • Make your own lists (favourites, topics, reading lists) via the ‘Basket’
  • Rate books and write book reviews
  • Link from AR book records to the AR website

As of next week, from Monday 18th January we will be running a ‘Click & Collect‘ service to enable you to continue to borrow books from the school library, as well as enabling returns of overdue books. Collection and returns should be made to the main entrance of the school.

Help Guides

Oliver Login and Passwords

Library Link – Oliver App instructions

Click & Collect

ePlatform guide for students
(eBooks & Audiobooks)

Browsing eBooks & Audiobooks

Searching for Accelerated Reader Books

November 25, 2020
by Mrs Sinclair

Digital Book Club

Back in September we were meant to have our annual book fair in the library, however, COVID restrictions and worries meant we had to postponed the event, which is now scheduled for early March around World Book Day.
In the meantime we have set up a digital book club.
Browse the latest books and order online. For every £1 you spend on this month’s Book Club, our school will earn 20p in Scholastic Rewards – pupils will be able to help choose new books for the library. The latest date you can place orders is 14th December 2020.

November 18, 2020
by Mrs Sinclair

Dungeons & Dragons is Returning to the School Library

Friday afternoon activities have been given the go ahead for S1-3 pupils therefore live Role Playing Games, Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder is able to restart. Plenty of work has been ongoing to enable it to be as COVID-safe as possible so that groups don’t share equipment between them. Group trays with dice, player character miniatures, DM miniatures, Quick Reference Guide, Anatomy of Turn cards, pre-made character sheets, and a stick – piece of dowel for the DM to move miniatures!

Due to the current pandemic we will be doing things slightly differently, continuing to encourage good hand hygiene, face coverings, physical distancing, and good cough and sneeze etiquette. We will be playing in the library across both floors, including the Reading Zone.

Further Information can be found in the D&D section of this blog. Links to official D&D resources as well as guides created for the school group are available in the Links & Documents section. Both experienced and new players are recommended to go through these, including the Guidelines & Expectations and Table Rules.

We have around 20 players signed up for the activity of which just under a half are beginners or still fairly new to D&D. Two S3 pupils will be running games as Dungeon / Game Master, as will Mrs Sinclair and a volunteer senior pupil, across four groups spread out through the library. Pupils in the D&D activity will be added to our Dungeons and Dragons Team in Glow where you can ask questions and discuss anything to do with D&D.

The following information has been put together. There will be one group playing Pathfinder. Sections 3 to 4 won’t apply to this group as your Game Master will give you information. The first session will mostly be introductions, rules and guidelines for COVID safe play, and D&D table rules delivered by Mrs Sinclair.

  1. The COVID Stuff

  • Sanitise hands on entering and leaving the library. If you are already in the library sanitise hands before setting up and handling equipment.
  • Wear face coverings.
  • No more than 5 at a table / in a group (4 players, 1 Dungeon / Game Master) where possible.
  • Only handle dice and miniatures you are using. Avoid sharing with each other.
  • Each group will have their own set of equipment – don’t share between groups
  • Staff and senior pupil helpers should maintain 2m distance where possible.
  • All equipment will be quarantined and not available until the following Friday. Rule books will be cleaned so they are still available for use in the library during the week.
  1. What do I need to bring?

  • Bring own pencil and eraser – you need this for marking character sheet and taking notes. A notebook would be handy too.
  • Set(s) of dice if you have your own.
  • The rule books, if you have your own.
  • Enthusiasm
  • A willingness to learn
  • Imagination
  1. Dungeon Masters

You will be supplied with:

  • DM’s Pack containing:
    • Pencil for your own use
    • How to Play guide which includes a quick reference guide. Spares are available for players.
    • Table Rules – extra sheet
    • A stick! – for moving miniatures (handle with care!)
    • A blank jotter for your own notes.
    • Anatomy of a Turn within Combat cards for player reference.
    • Five pre-made character sheets. (Woodelf Ranger; Dwarf (Hill) Fighter; Dragonborn Cleric; Human Fighter; Human Wizard; Halfling (Lightfoot) Rogue; Half-elf Druid; Halfling (Stout) Ranger)
    • A yellow plastic folder for player characters being used.
  • Box of miniatures with 5 sets of dice in different colours.
    • More miniatures (mainly ‘boss’ type monsters) are available but should be returned to the quarantine section of the box.
    • Be creative – for instance, use dice to represent monsters, if needs be.
  • Player’s Handbook; Monster Manual; Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Please could DMs please help with set-up and tidying up. Remember to try to keep 2m distance from staff and senior pupil helpers where possible.

  1. Players

You will be supplied with:

  • A pre-made character sheet – write your name and class on it. If you want to make your own, speak to Mrs Sinclair and your DM. This would have to be done in your own time. Please leave your character sheets with your DM after the game.
  • Remember – don’t touch other people’s dice or miniatures. If you really need to, sanitise hands before and afterwards.
  • A Quick Reference Guide will be available at your table
  1. Activities Procedures

We will only have 40 minutes of game time. It would be helpful if DMs could help set up during the last 10 minutes of lunch break. DMs / groups allocated to the upper library may start their games during lunchtime if all their players are present.

  • Please arrive promptly.
  • First 5 minutes – registration
  • Pack-up starts 5-10 minutes before end of the period at 13:45.
  • Please help with setting up, tidying, and cleaning the tables / chairs where you sat.
  1. Other Stuff

If you are not already on the library Dungeons & Dragons Team, you will be added. Here you can ask questions and be kept informed of any relevant information.

It might be worth you signing up to DnDBeyond ( (over 13yrs only) where you can easily make your own characters for download and with the free account, you can access the Basic Rules for free which would give access to some spell information if you are playing a spellcaster. This could be accessed via your phone, laptop or tablet.

Mrs Sinclair is available at lunchtimes to answer any D&D related questions or help you create your own characters.

November 4, 2020
by Mrs Sinclair

Mini Spooky Happenings and other Library Information

Spooky Happenings

Last week saw the return to school after the October holidays with things still being different for us. On Friday the 30th October, pupils and staff in the school dressed up to raise funds and collect food for Orkney Foodbank. We raised over £146 and put together 9 boxes of food which were delivered to the foodbank that afternoon.

Our usual ghost storytelling session was unable to go ahead in its usual packed format, however a mini event took place over the course of the two lunch sessions with access to some treats as well.

First, The S1-3 pupils were able to listen to an extract from a book, Robert Westall’s The Wheatstone Pond, which is one of Mrs Sinclair’s many favourites, as well as sharing their own ghost stories.

During the second sitting of lunch (S4-6) we were very lucky to have local storyteller, Fran Flett Hollinrake, run a virtual session from the beautiful St Magnus Cathedral. This was shown to all pupils across the school in classrooms as well as the library.

Book Return

Last term we reminded pupils via Register, Guidance, and English teachers to return any books they borrowed from the library before lockdown and have done so again within the last week, including books borrowed last term which are now also overdue. Please could we get these books back as soon as possible so that they are available for other users. There are a lot of books still outstanding which amount to a staggering £700 worth.

Pupils can return books to the quarantine box in the library which is then set aside for 72+ hours. We are also cleaning returned books to be on the safe side. If books are not returned of have been lost or damaged then we would expect payment for replacing them. However, as a cheaper alternative for you, we can accept new or second-hand books (in very good or excellent condition) instead of payment.

Book Borrowing

Pupils and staff are able to browse the shelves and borrow books, but we are still encouraging pupils not to touch the books unless they are taking them out. Also, library users need to hand sanitise between sections of the library and after they have handled resources and equipment.

Pupils can borrow:

1st – 2nd year = FOUR items for 4 weeks

3rd – 4th year = SIX items for 4 weeks

5th & 6th year & Staff = EIGHT items for 8 weeks

All pupils should carry their library card with them in school and to bring them to the library if they need to borrow a book. Replacement cards cost £1 if they are lost or damaged.

Book Displays

There are many books on display. For information, these boos CAN BE BORROWED.

Library Presentation

Further information about the library and its resources can be found within this blog, and on the library page of the school website. There is also a library presentation on the website, but can also be viewed here.

Library Team

All pupils and staff are members of the library Team in Glow. It is recommended users check here fairly regularly as it is a space where new books and library events will be highlighted, as well as another place where overdue reminders will go out.

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