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The Churchill Archive

We have recently taken up the chance of free access to The Churchill Archive.  This will last until 2020.  It is “a digital library of modern international history“.  It gives access to primary source material – Winston Churchill’s personal correspondence through to official exchanges with heads of state, military leaders, etc.  Access should automatically happen when you load the site from any computer in the school.


Complete Issue Online

It appears the subscription lapsed (?) last year but we now currently have a month’s free trial, ending on May 31st, with a view to resubscribing again.  This gives access to Essential Articles, Fact File, and Key Organisations. The books are also available in the library.  This useful resources collates articles from many sources on current and controversial issues and provides an excellent research resource for those doing discursive essays in particular.

This is a site licence which allows pupils and staff to be able to get access from any computer in school or from home. General access is available via a username and password which is available from Mrs Sinclair or on the posters displayed in the library.


Other Online resources

There are links to other free online resources through the LibLinks tab above, which includes the following:


Here you will find links to useful websites on various topics relating to research projects in various departments as well as links to websites to help with the Library & Information Literacy Courses.

Reference Resources – Links to online encyclopaedias, dictionaries, newspapers & magazines.

Search Engines – There are many more search engines out there – try something different to Google.

Web 2.0 – Useful online tools, including document storage & sharing; blogging; organising resources; social bookmarking.

Library & Information Literacy Skills – Links to resources used during the library & information literacy skills courses.

Subject Links – Website links linked to subject departments and research topics you might do in school.

Careers Links – Useful links to online resources to help you with your subject choices, job research and university entrance.


Snow & New Books

On this snowy late April morning, yes, I did say ‘snowy’, why not curl up with a good book.  A number of new books are now on display and are available for borrowing.  The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge comes highly recommended as this reader thought it was BRILLIANT!


Of course, if you wanted to brush up on your sheep care during the ‘lambing snow’, particularly lambing, if you have time, you could have a look at Practical Sheep Keeping, available alongside many other farming books in the library.




Castle Building

As part of the S1 History course, pupils get a chance to design and build model castles once they have had an introduction to Medieval Times.  Once they were finished, a few were put on display in the library along with a few relevant books.


World Book Day

Today, Thursday 2nd March, is World Book Day.  This annual event has been going for 20 years and Stromness Academy Library has been celebrating this for around eight years with an informal lunchtime event focused on reading extracts from favourite books, discussing reading generally, and partaking of snacks.   We usually run book swaps and a small book fair as well.

This year we are having a Peedie Book Fair, courtesy of Stromness Books & Prints who let use bring a small selection of books to sell in school.  Pupils get a WBD £1 token which they can use in part payment at the book fair or at local bookshops.  There are also second-hand books available for swapping out with own books.

Lunchtime will see a gathering in the library with ‘bring & share’ snacks (usually brought by Mrs Sinclair, the Librarian, but hoping others will have got the message.

A round up of the day will be posted in due course.

A New Year, A New Term, New Books

Christmas has been and gone and is now but a distant memory as we settle down into the third term.  The library is not so heavily booked as it was last term as departments, especially in the senior years, are preparing for prelims, folio work and subsequently the National qualifications later in the session.  S2 Careers Library & Information Literacy Skills course will take place later this term.  Pupils will be taught how to use the Careers section of the library as well as finding relevant information online.  This is a part of the options process where pupils choose what they plan to study in 3rd year.

Junior years, in the main, still get a chance to use the library for personal reading during library periods in their English lessons.  Most visit the once a week, however, they are also given reading time at the beginning of each lesson.  It feels like loans are up on previous years; our S1 and 2 particularly borrow lots of books.  Time will tell if this feeling is matched in the loan statistics when they are run at the end of the session.

New Books

100_0890A batch of new books arrived just before Christmas, and most have
now been processed and are on display and available for loan.

Stan Lee Excelsior Award for Graphic Novels & Manga

We will also be expecting eight new graphic novels very soon as we embark yet again on shadowing the Stan Lee Excelsior Award. This annual award for Graphic Novels and Manga is the only such award judged by 11-16 year olds.  In Stromness Academy, pupils are encouraged to take part, extending their reading into a form they may not have tried before.  Each participant will get a reward card which when filled (all eight books read and rated) will be entered into a prize draw for a gift voucher from a local shop.



The library continues to be a very popular place to be at lunchtime, with sometimes 40+ pupils visiting (more than 10% of the school roll) at a given time, but usually averages aroun 30.  We try to keep it a relaxed space at lunchtime where a variety of different activities can take place.  On any given day one can find pupils reading, working on the computers, playing boardgames (chess, draughts, Connect4, etc), gaming on the PCs – although work will always get priority, playing Magic the Gathering, doing homework or project work, or just sitting chilling or chatting.

Recently, some pupils and Mrs Sinclair, librarian, have been playing ‘D&D Shorts’.  This is an abbreviated version of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, adapted by Mrs Sinclair to enable 20-30 minute short games.  This proved popular with some pupils new to the game.


Library Activities – Dungeons & Dragons

Last period on Friday afternoons has been an enduring part of Stromness Academy for 30+ years.  There has been an activity in the library in one from or another since the mid 90s when we started with Stable Management (theory) and A Christmas library Display group.  When some pupils asked if they could play Dungeons & Dragons, I agreed and we haven’t looked back since, now going into our 17th year.

p1220459This term sees the Friday D&D group increase by another six pupils, having already gained similar number back in August, and another couple in October.  We now have 23 players,as well as a group of five more experienced players on a Tuesday after school.

This activity could not run with these numbers with out the willing and able help of three pupils who lead games, whilst I run the fourth – our newest players.  If they didn’t run the games, the activity would be restricted to 5 or six pupils at the most.

Each group will have the leader, the Dungeon Master (DM), and 4-6 players maximum. Groups could be bigger, but this would not make for a particularly good game experience within the time constraints we have.  Our new players are keen, lively and even come in at lunchtimes to create or level up characters; something we don’t have time for during the activities session.  I suspect there are a few budding DMs among them which will be useful when our seniors leave school.





Christmas is (almost) Here – Stromness Academy Carol Service

For the last eight weeks since the start of term, musicians and singers (pupils and staff) have been rehearsing for the school’s annual carol service at the Stromness Parish Church.  We have a lovely selection of festive tunes, traditional carols and choir pieces.

This event takes place on Monday 19th December 2016 at 7:30pm at the Stromness Parish Church and all are welcome to attend.


National Poetry Day

The annual poetry picnic took place on Thursday 6th October.  Over the course of the two lunch sessions, around 20 pupils and some staff gathered in the library at lunchtime to listen to and read out poems on the theme of ‘Messages‘ as well as partake in some snacks and drinks which the Librarian provided.  Over half of them read out poems to the rest, some a couple of times.

Once again we also revisited the popular ‘Tongue Twister Game’ which has now been a feature of this event for a good few years.  It is always well received.



Participants were asked to evaluate the event and all provided a positive response to it.  Some suggestions / comments were also provided.

[Need] A bit more time.

Loved it.

Good fun and thanks for the food.

More time to do this.

It was fun and good and I think we liked all the games.

Excellent and friendly event – a small but goodly company!

Christmas event.

The idea of having a Christmas event is good, but timings could be tricky with the library being very busy with booked classes.

Spooky Happenings – The ghost story telling even would normally follow NPD, but unfortunately a bereavement and subsequent absence meant there was no time available to prepare for an event at the beginning of term immediately after the October break.





School Library Activities: Of D&D, MtG, Board games and other activities

The library is as busy, if not busier than ever, especially during leisure times – in the morning before classes start and at lunchtimes.  Pupils can do a variety of activities at these times.  There are the regular activities, described below, as well as our annual events.  Our Poetry Picnic is this Thursday, 6th October to celebrate National Poetry Day.  The theme is ‘Messages’. After the October Holidays we will have another lunchtime session of storytelling for Spooky Happenings.

A small cohort of pupils come to the library before its official opening time, presumably because they want first dibs on the PCs, but they come on the condition that they help with shelving and shelf tidying.  Their ‘enthusiasm’ for this means the shelving trolley is usually not too full.  Sometimes books aren’t in the correct place, but this is a minor inconvenience.  Mornings are often the time when some pupils are frantically finishing (in some cases starting, I suspect) homework, or printing it out.  Others will read quietly, but in the main mornings are a gentle run in to the school day with a bit of a chat.

Many will go on the computers to play games in the morning or at lunchtime, although those wanting to do school work will always get priority.  This system seems to work well, with only the occasional gripe when someone is asked to come off a PC to let someone work.  We keep an eye to the games pupils are playing as well as ensuring both games and any YouTube videos they watch are appropriate for viewing in the school.  Pupils are aware of and accept these limitations to use.

Board games such as chess, draughts and Connect4 are popular at lunchtime.  These are kept on shelves so pupils can help themselves.  A new Draughts set has recently been purchased and donated by the Librarian as we only had one set.  One wonders whether there is scope for a peedie competition?

Magic the GaDSCN5566thering, an RPG card game where opponents battle each other is still very popular, both at lunchtime and during Friday afternoon activities.  It was introduced to the library in the late 90’s and has been played ever since.  We have also run a couple of tournaments in the past, and the time may well be ripe for another one.  Watch this space!


Friday afternoon Role Playing Games activity is also more popular than ever with 23 pupils attending. Eight play Magic the Gathering in the Upper Library whilst the rest play Dungeons & Dragons, in three groups.  This year we have 7 beginners which bodes well for the future of this activity.  The beginners group of 5 very enthusiastic S1 pupils is DM’d (Dungeon Mastered) by the Librarian, Mrs Sinclair, playing the published Starter Set adventure, Lost Mine of Phandelver from Wizards of the Coast.   An S3 pupil leads two older beginners in his more experienced group of players playing a 5e D&D homebrew Sci-fi type of game.  A further group led by an S3 girl playing 3.5e D&D.  More information on the history of D&D at Stromness Academy can be found here.

PC “Can I use toilet?”

NPC “Outhouse is out back”

3 min later same question

NPC Same reply

Pupil asks again

DM “Oh YOU want to go”

c0sOn Tuesday after school a small group of five experienced D&D players meet.  This includes one of the pupil DMs so it gives him a chance to play as well.  Currently we are playing the Curse of Strahd campaign set in Ravenloft.  This adventure will be full of suspense, a little measure of horror and maybe even some hope.  The characters find themselves transported through mists to a different place to where they were the night before.  They are in a forest clearing near a road.  They have two options: go east into the mist (back to where they think they came from) or go west.  They find out that the mist is rather dangerous so go west along the forest track.

Player: “How would I know I am in a forest?”

DM: “Erm!” Looks at other players.

Other players: Bemused! Roll eyes!

The characters find their way to the village of Barovia where two little children ask them to chase a monster out of their house.  The players are now currently ‘stuck’ in The Death House (no it isn’t really as bad as it sounds – actually, yes it is!) which is an introductory adventure getting them used to the emphasis on the role-playing aspect of this campaign, as opposed to the dice rolling of lots of combat.  It is making the players think much more carefully about their character’s actions, how they work together as a group and how they affect the other characters in the group. For example, maybe hitting a group of statuettes with a maul, which you saw briefly in the guise of your adventuring companions, might have consequences! One of the party took a lot of damage!

The main thing with D&D is that the players have fun.  The great thing is it also teaches pupils lots of skills in terms of numeracy, literacy and social skills.  More information is found on the D&D page of this blog.

Referencing & Bibliography

For those entering senior years, especially 6th year, longer essays and dissertations will feature.  You will be expected to use references and produce a bibliography which meets defined standards.

To help you, a guide to Referencing & Bibliography is available from the Resources  section of the blog in the Documents Library.  Here there are also library guides, help sheets and Youth Achievement Award documentation.



A New Session, A New Term

So, the ever repeating cycle of a school year starts again.  This Librarian, after 24 years (is it really that long) is  already up and running welcoming old and new pupils and staff alike to the library.  The summer proved busy (yep, I am in during some of the holidays) with many jobs being done.

What does a School Librarian get up to when working during the school holidays?  Well, here is some of what is done:

  • Shelf tidying
  • Stocktake
  • Processing new books
  • LMS (Library Management System) maintenance
  • Preparing S1 Library cards and adding pupils to LMS
  • Checking class lists against LMS
  • Annual report writing
  • More shelf tidying
  • Lesson preparation (Library & Information Literacy Skills)
  • Cleaning up library files on server – getting rid of unused or superseded documents
  • Clearing out emails (archiving where necessary)
  • Book orders
  • Preparing library guides for new pupils and new staff
  • Activities prep (Running a beginners Dungeons & Dragons activity on Friday afternoon so help guides and characters made up – this work is also done at home in my own time)
  • Sorting magazines and newspapers (The Orcadian) ensuring in date order and in correct file boxes
  • Even more shelf tidying
  • Plant care – yep, the plants (Spider plants; Dracenas; Yuccas; Begonias) have to be cared for too (the smaller ones get taken home for repotting)
  • Statistics updates
  • Logbook updates
  • Notices and posters – updating and or printing out fresh ones
  • Library Guiding – updating
  • Preparing new computer logbooks and booking sheets
  • Thinking up new ideas
  • Long term planning
  • Yet more shelf tidying – yes I have said that a few times, but there is a lot of it.
  • etc.

So, we are now second week in and it doesn’t really feel like we have been away.  Fresh faces and our regulars are visiting the library during break times.  Computers, board games and Magic the Gathering are proving as popular as ever.

We are still fairly quiet during classtime, but a small number of 6th year have discovered that the library can be quite a good place to study during their ‘free’ periods – would like to maybe see more.  S1 and S2 classes have started to come for library periods where they will be doing library and information literacy skills as well as personal reading.  Next week, though is when it will get busier with the Geography Department starting their research projects – Europe for S1 and Earth Forces for S2.  This is when we will be really busy.

Time to prepare by putting the relevant book displays up, then!

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