Stromness Academy Library

Books, reading and life in a school library

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.

October 7, 2020
by Mrs Sinclair

Book Giveaway – World Book Night

World Book Night was on 23rd April but due to library closures was not able to be celebrated in any form here. However, recently the Orkney Library & Archive passed on 20 copies of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams which have now been randomly distributed to pupils and staff arriving in the school this morning.

Mrs Sinclair gave books to pupils and staff arriving at school. There were a few surprised faces (as far as one could tell behind the face coverings) as folks couldn’t quite believe they were getting a free book. Lets hope they enjoy their new reading material and share it with others.

(Apologies for quality of photographs – camera focussed on mark on the lens that went undiscovered.)

October 2, 2020
by Mrs Sinclair

Pick up a Poem (National Poetry Day)

Thursday 1st October saw the annual national celebration of poetry take place, however this year in the school library, we had to scale the event down. The usual Poetry Picnic could not take place, however, almost at the last minute (well three days before) ‘Pick up a Poem’ was spawned. The informal event was promoted in the daily bulletin along with a poem to be shared with register classes. The poems were chosen from the NPD website:

Who Has Seen the Wind? by Christina Rossetti

Dreams by Langston Hughes

Who Knows? by Liz Brownlee

Once Tuesday became Wednesday a seed of a further idea came to mind… “Pick up a Poem” brought back memories of a TV advert and tag line of a certain well known biscuit, thus the event became ‘Pick up a Poem [and a Penguin]’. Poetry books were laid out on the few tables we currently have in the library and one each at the PCs. Each book was accompanied by the aforementioned biscuit. All pupils had to do was sit down and read a poem or three. There was an increased emphasis on pupils, already well versed in the routines, using hand sanitiser and wiping down the chairs and tables where they sat. Some staff also placed copies of their favourite poems on the classroom doors.

During the Junior Phase lunch sitting over 30 pupils came to the library, many of whom took up a poetry book and biscuit. After a very quiet (and long) term so far it was heartening, if not slightly emotional, to see so many visitors, and some very eager ones at that. At one point I extolled the virtues of and amazing (and emotional) novel in verse, The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan – four pupils expressed an interest in borrowing it and are on the reservations list. Not sure in all the years I’ve been here that I have had such a long reserve list. The pupils were engaged, eager, and polite showing an enthusiasm for trying poetry, including those who said they really liked reading poems.

Last year we received a donation of a wonderful illustrated poetry book inspired by nature, The Lost Words, by Robert MacFarlane & Jackie Morris. This donation was the result of a Crowdfunder Campaign to get a copy of the book into every Primary, Secondary, and Special school in Scotland. This book is beautiful and a few first year pupils pored over it especially enjoying the illustrations.

The Lost Words: A Spell Book cover photo











Once Junior Phase lunch was over, the seating and tables were further sanitised and library further ventilated, a handful of Senior Phase pupils came in and pretty much enjoyed the same, with the addition of hot chocolate.


All in all, under the circumstances brought about by the pandemic, this event which I did not dare to hope could take place helped bring some normality to strange and uncertain times. Thank you to support from Senior management, staff, and especially the pupils.

September 9, 2020
by Mrs Sinclair

Business as Usual as it can be: Books, Browsing & Borrowing

I would like to say it is business as usual, but it is more like business ‘as usual as it can be’. We are open for borrowing and have lifted some restrictions on browsing now in line with the public library and guidance, but you need to ensure you are thorough in sanitising your hands between sections of the library when browsing. As indicated below, we would still encourage you not to touch the books beyond those which you want to borrow.

There are a few more displays in the library, of both new stock and older stock. Please feel free to borrow from these displays. A book order went in recently based on requests made in the first couple of weeks. Look out for quite a few Manga novels as they appear to be in demand. Please do suggest books for the library. Tell Me (Mrs Sinclair) or use the request forms in the library Team on Glow. Pupils and staff are in the process of being added but you can request to join here.

Can I come to the library? – YES! 

  • S1-3 – Before registration, Break time, and lunchtime (12:35- 1:15pm)
  • S4-6 – Luncthime (11:45 – 12:25)
  • During classtime – individuals or small groups if you are sent by your teacher

Can I borrow library books? – YES, absolutely! Bring you library card.

  • S1-3 – 4 books for 4 weeks
  • S4 – 6 books for 4 weeks
  • S5-6 – 8 books for 8 weeks

Can I browse the shelves? – YES!

  • Avoiding touching until you have found one you want (use sanitiser)
  • Lots more books on display to increase visibility
  • Don’t forget the new books display
  • Can’t find what you want? Ask Mrs Sinclair to help.

COVID Safety

  • Sanitise hands on entering and leaving the library and between sections of the library when browsing books
  • Wear face coverings
  • Be seated
  • Wear warm clothing as the windows will be open for ventilation
  • Carefully wipe down chairs, desks, PCs, etc where you have sat before you leave the library
  • Book returns to black box on table in reference section (quarantine)
  • Books are also cleaned prior to lending, as well as after the quarantine


What are the physical changes?

  • Hand sanitiser stations
  • Reduced seating – no soft seating
  • Lower Library
  • 8 at tables
  • 8 at computers
  • 12 individual seats
  • Reduced number of PCs
  • More book displays
  • No access to the Reference Section (it is being used as storage)
  • Limited access to Upper Library
  • 2 metre distancing from Librarian’s desk

August 12, 2020
by Mrs Sinclair

We’re Back!

Welcome back to Stromness Academy, and to the school library. I would love to say it will be business as usual, but it isn’t, however I hope I can make your use of the library as a space for personal reading, study, and as a ‘break-out’ social area as comfortable and easy as possible (minus the soft seating, sadly) under the circumstances – even if you just want to have a chat about anything, be it video games, Dungeons & Dragons, books, films, your new kitten, or just a general natter.

It has been a long few months with plenty of ups and downs for us all, adult and student alike. I hope many of you have managed to get plenty of reading done, but don’t stress if you haven’t. I have seen commented in social media, that reading, for whatever reason had been a struggle for some, myself included.

Since we went into lockdown and beyond, I have still been working, albeit predominantly at home. What, you may ask, can a school librarian do at home? Aren’t libraries all about the books? Well, just to give you a peedie snippet of what a school librarian can do at home:

  • Online CPD (training) – there were lots of free webinars.
  • Keeping the school website up-to-date as well as general maintenance of the site.
  • Running an online D&D game through Teams for some of the activities group.
  • Labelling new books and giving them their AR levels (yes, I took a box of books home with me).
  • Up-dating library guidelines and routines.
  • Collating statistics
  • Running D&D and Reading Group Teams on Glow.
  • Staff meetings via Teams.
  • Collaborative work with other staff.
  • Creating the digital pupil handbook – a very big project – Pupil Handbook.

Since I have been back in school most of the work has been changing the physical layout of the library to enable social distancing as well as getting all the shelves tidied after they were abandoned in a mess in March. By early next week I hope to have completed the annual maintenance on the library management system, so that you will be able to borrow books by the end of next week. At the bottom of this post are links to the current guidelines on library use. Please familiarise yourself with them.

What are the Changes?

  • Reduced seating (by at least a third).
  • Reference section used as storage area for furniture, and a separate work table for the librarian if needed.
  • Sanitising stations at each door – remember, you are encouraged to bring your own sanitiser.
  • Pupils encouraged to clean chairs and desks where they have sat.
  • Reduced number of computers – 8 now available instead of 11.
  • Upper library used as SfL base at break and lunchtimes.
  • Library open at interval and before registration for S1-3 pupils.
  • Lunchtime – open for S4-6 pupils Period 4, and usual time for S1-3. Note – time will be given cleaning will take place between lunch sittings.
  • No activities (incl. board games, D&D, miniature painting, etc.).
  • No access to stationery (coloured pens, pencils, etc).
  • No handling of books – look at the shelves, but don’t touch – reserve a title with Mrs Sinclair. However – Books can still be borrowed with appropriate hygiene routines in place. All returned books will be quarantined for 72 hours and cleaned.
  • Library Team – all pupils and staff – here you will find info about the library and book request forms. Access code available from the library
  • No access to upper library via spiral stair.
  • Ventilation – Windows always open (Brrrrr! bring warm clothing).
  • Tissues available in various parts of the library – use them if you need to cough or sneeze, then bin the tissue immediately then sanitise or wash your hands.







I know this may be hard for you, as it is for me, but we need to protect ourselves and each other. I will be keeping at least two metres from you in line with social distancing – usually remaining behind the issue desk, however where this is not possible (helping a student, fetching a book off the shelf, etc), I will wear a face covering when I am out and about in the main area of the library, particularly when it is busy, as well as in the corridors. Please feel free to wear a face covering if you wish to do so.

Remember talk to each other, talk to me about anything to do with library related issues – I am here to listen and help. Support and help each other too. This is not normal, but we have to adapt and become used to it. Let’s make the best of a bad position.


Frances Sinclair, School Librarian


Links to Library Use Guidelines

Library Use

Book browsing


Face covering

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