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Spooky Happenings – Storytelling

Spooky Happenings is our annual Hallowe’en ghost storytelling event. This year it fell on 31st October.

Over 40 pupils and staff attended this event –  a record for our 10+ year history.

The Reading Zone of the library was invaded by ‘spiders’, associated cobwebs, and other appropriate decorations. NB: A number of spider decorations had been ‘liberated’. It would be nice to get them back for Spooky Happenings in future years.

A few snacks were also provided and were scoffed by attendees.

This year we welcomed Fran Flett Hollinrake, a local storyteller, to the school library. She kept everyone enthralled with the four stories she told in the 40 minutes, providing a few frights where more than one of us jumped.



The stories:

  • St Magnus and the Wolves
  • The Haunted Spinning Wheel
  • The Crimean Widow
  • The Phantom Ship.

Pupils were extremely well behaved and listened attentively despite being packed into a small

space on chairs, bean bags, and the floor. It was commented that more space was needed, and yes – it was, however the numbers attending exceeded all expectations. It will be something we will look into in another year.

Other than the space issue, evaluations were all positive:

It was the best storytelling I’ve ever seen. Loved it. RH

I was very happy with everything. MM

It was great. ZH

Fab! Would love to have something like this again. Anon

It was really good but it would have been better if there was more space. CB

I thought it was brilliant. MM

I found the stories really interesting and I really enjoyed it. ER

More snacks and room. JL     Note this is a ‘bring & share event and in this case the Librarian donated these.

Suggestion for Bob the apple. Anon

More time. Anon

Thank you to all staff and pupils who supported this event, the two S5 pupils who volunteered to help with final tweaking of decorations, and a very big thank you to Fran Flett Hollinrake who had come of the back of a successful Orkney Storytelling Festival. As suggested by her, a donation to The Orcadian Story Trust will be made for her time.

The Orcadian Story Trust / Storytelling Festival can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Standing room only


Over-spill came and sat at the tables in the Lower Library to listen


Miniature Painting Club

Today saw the start of a lunchtime miniature painting club on the back of receiving a generous donation of a box of Lord of the Rings Warhammer minis  from a professional miniature painter (via Twitter connections). The Goblins of Mordor website is an inspiration to all aspiring mini painters.

These will then be used for Dungeons & Dragons games run three times a week on Tuesday after school, Thursday lunchtime, and Friday activities.

It was therefore time to dig out the old paints, and brushes as well as get some new paint. Brushes have seen better days so new ones are on the wishlist as is getting a better selection of paint.

A recent rediscovery of a previous donation (of mostly LotR figures) from some time ago, also means that there is a possibility of running LotR Warhammer, however someone who knows how to play the game will need to help – any takers?

So, today we covered undercoating, or at least it was explained as I had done the job in advance, however for those of us with interesting eyesight, I suggested a thin wash of white over the black would pick up some detail. One pupil took this option.

It was also important that pupils knew to always pop a clean paint brush into the paint as we certainly don’t want new colours in the pot. In terms of using and mixing the paint, it was suggested that they only take a small amount out at a time (ensuring paint pot lid subsequently closed and pop it onto something they can mix on, in this case, a paper plate. I had brought my own paint in and for all the amount, in theory, that is needed, allowed pupils to use some – they were keen on the bronze and the mithril silver in particular.

We set to painting our minis.


Two pupils had put their name down for it, three turned up, and a fourth has asked to join us.

The group will reconvene next Monday (25th Sept) lunchtime – we will meet on Mondays from now on. Pupils have been given permission to bring their sandwiches, which means they can get more painting time in. The pupils also asked if they could paint during other lunchtimes – a big YES!

Not bad for 30 minutes work from 3 beginners and one slightly more experienced, but still a novice, person!



Classes in the library

We are now half way through the term. Wondering where the time has gone!

Today saw an S1 class doing some library induction activities, following up from a group discussion and map drawing exercise last week. Today pupils filled in their own personal library maps.

They also had a first look at CfE Outcome LIT 3-11a Reading for Enjoyment and choice

I regularly select and read, listen to or watch texts for enjoyment ans interest, and I can express how ell they meet my needs and expectation and give reasons, with evidence, for my personal response

I can identify sources to develop the range of my reading.

“From the start of term I have been reading in class, home and in the library.”

“From the start of term we’ve been reading in class and at home.”

“Since the start of term I have been reading The Hunger Games which I picked myself and really enjoying it.”

“I chose a book to read and it’s good but confusing.”

“I have been choosing books that I enjoy reading from the library and at home.”

“I enjoyed reading George’s Marvellous Medicine in the library.”

“I chose books that I enjoy or ones that people recommended to me.”

Afterwards, pupils spent 15-20 minutes doing personal reading.



The first week back after the summer holidays is now over. New pupils and staff are settling into the school and the cycle of classes, days, weeks and terms begins.

The library has continued to prove to be very popular at lunchtimes with upwards of 40/45 pupils being our maximum number of users. A variety of activities take place during the short 40 minutes with pupils doing the following on an informal, mostly self-led basis:

  • Personal reading
  • Homework; study; research
  • Computers for leisure use (games, internet browsing, etc) or for school work – which ALWAYS gets priority.
  • Boardgames: Chess; draughts; Connect4; Mastermind; Kerplunk
  • Magic the Gathering – decks are available to borrow.
  • Pokemon – pupils bring in their own decks to play
  • Just ‘chilling’ and relaxing

Currently we have one formal activity, Dungeons & Dragons, which will run every Thursday lunchtime, starting about 12:40 and running for approximately 30 minutes. Due to the short time scale and the difficulty in running a D&D game in 30 minutes, there are (slightly) condensed level 3 player character sheets available and the ‘adventure’ will mostly be a ‘dungeon crawl’ clearing out the monsters.

This activity will run on a first-come-first-served basis, or pupils can book in advance if they wish. There are 4, maybe 5 at a push, spaces available.




Any other suggestions?

There could be opportunities for other more formal activities, if pupils and / or staff are interested, both in joining in and helping to run or supervise the activity. Ideas, so far, include:

  • Reading or Book group? Including helping to choose books for the library.
  • Chess or draughts competition? (We have a small trophy for our only chess competition 10+ years ago)


  • D&D Miniature painting? (Trophy, The Golden Goblin, was competed for in the early 2000s, and is ready and waiting for a new generation.)
  • Magic the Gathering Competition
  • Helping in the library – if there is enough interest, the Pupil Librarian scheme can be reestablished.

If you are interested in any of these or have your own ideas, let Mrs Sinclair know.

The library is your space, and with your support and cooperation we can try and make it how you would like to see it, within reasonable parameters and school policies.

New Term, New Books, Tidy Library

The holidays are so nearly over. The two and a half weeks or so I worked during the holidays have been fairly productive. The ‘to do’ list is nearly all marked off, although there are quite a few follow up jobs still to be worked on.

The library shelves have been tidied. Plants have been potted on where necessary. Dungeons & Dragons activities prep is still ongoing.  Year planning has been thought about. Books have been repaired. New books are on display. Magazines have been tidied. Computers checked. Library cards written up and spare barcodes for S2-6 printed out. Notices refreshed where necessary.

So, one can feel fairly confident we are ready for the new term and would like to welcome everyone back.

Look out for some news in the coming days about our events (National Poetry Day & Spooky Happenings) as well as a very nice surprise donation (two parcels) to help with the Dungeons & Dragons activity.

Tidy fiction shelves


Book repairs and lost pages reunited with their books


Plant care, including those that hang in the foyer



Disposing of the newspaper cuttings files from the Project Topic Shelves


New book processing


Cataloguing new books


Sorting diary and timetabling


Pencil sharpening and colour pen testing


Dungeons & Dragons activity prep


Board games sorted (note ‘new’ Kerplunk game)


New books displays (including some donations)


Library Activities – Role Playing Games

The role playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, has been played in the school library now for over 15 years. What started as a suggestion by pupils has grown from an initial group of 5 pupils and the school librarian, to over 25 pupils earlier this session. As the term and school year draws to a close, we now stand at 16 D & D players and 7 Magic the Gathering players coming to the library for Friday afternoon activities. D & D also has been running on a Tuesday after school for more experienced players. We also run short (25-30 min) games on a Thursday lunchtime.

As with all school extra-curricular activities, Role Playing Games fits with a number of Curriculum for Excellence outcomes across Literacy, Numeracy, and Health & Wellbeing. Further details are here, in particular connected to D & D.

Over the years we have also  played a little Warhammer (including a miniature painting competition), the Warhammer RPG, Call of Cthulhu, d20 Modern, and Vampire the Requiem, as well as Magic the Gathering and D & D in 3e, 3.5e, 4e and now 5e editions.

Our Friday activities are now only 50 minutes long (used to be 1hr 10min) so effectively we are lucky to have  40-45 minutes of game time which can prove somewhat restricting in the world of D & D. However, we have adapted and it means pupils and DMs (Dungeon Masters who lead a group) have to be disciplined in terms of time keeping and keeping on task.

Since the introduction of 5th edition we have been running the modules, published by Wizards of the Coast. Lost Mine of Phandelver (in the Starter Set) has been used for beginners’ groups, Curse of Strahd is run on a Tuesday after school for more experienced players, and Hoard of the Dragon Queen is run on a Friday. On a Thursday ‘drop in session’ the players are being run through The Mines of Madness which is a very typical ‘dungeon crawl’ and is proving relatively suitable for a short time slot. Two pupils run their own adventures using d20 Modern or 3.5e D & D.

The modules are great, but it takes a LONG time to get through them due to the short sessions. As a DM, this school librarian is (slowly) adapting her style to cope and is actually ad libbing more and trying to make encounters shorter and snappier. Running a full campaign such as Curse or Hoard is looking like it will take several years at this rate so a more ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ style is needed.

Next session, the Role Playing Games activity will be running in the same format offering Roleplaying Games:

  • A: Magic the Gathering
  • B: Beginners D & D (inc. beginner DMs)
  • C: Dungeons & Dragons


Online Resources

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.

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