Stromness Academy Library

Books, reading and life in a school library

March 6, 2024
by Mrs Sinclair

World Book Day 7th March 2023

We will be having an informal event in the library looking at some of the latest books to be ready for borrowing in what we call a ‘book tasting’. This is where we have two or three ‘courses’ of books to look at, taking into consideration what book cover, and blurb persuades us to want to read the book. We will also read the first chapter. Pupils and staff can borrow any books they like the look of to take home to read.
We would also like suggestions for any new books pupils might like to see in the library.

We also currently have an online Scholastic Book Club running. Pupils can view what’s on offer in the leaflets in the school library, or can check online where there is a much bigger selection. Any orders made will contribute to the library also being able to get rewards which we can put towards new books..
No photo description available.
A graphic showing why it is important for pupils to read
Some of the new books available for viewing tomorrow. A good opportunity to be the first to read them.

September 19, 2023
by Mrs Sinclair

Miniature Painting Competition

How are we already over half way to the October holidays? Hope everyone has settled back into school after the summer break, which now seems such a while ago.

Last session we held a miniature painting competition to which we had several entries from three students. We had the honour of having a previous, none the least first, winner of the Golden Goblin trophy judge the competition for us.

Here is Jack’s summary:


Overall a very cool model, I really love the texture of the tentacle’s colour transition, the base has some really nice water effects and the glossy finish gives a great impression of a proper slimy sea beast.














Nice palette choice, orange cat and blue scarf complement each other nicely. The grungy tone, especially around the coat, is very evocative of the reference pictures I found.







Nurgle guys

Very cool weathering, the rust and verdigris are really nicely done. The pallid skin tones with green look disgusting and work so well. Definition of the highlights and shadows give them all a good readability.










The bases of these look exactly like a worn grey limestone, the subtle orange around the inside of the metal baskets make the flames look like they belong. Good “atmosphere” and textures.

Big boy

Great promise, really nice base shading, especially around the eyes. Faces are hard, but you’ve already got him looking great! (This was entered as a work in progress.)










Mr Pumpkin shall haunt my nightmares. (Not an entry – a miniature by Mrs S.)










All in all, the quality of these minis is orders of magnitude better than when I was painting in school. It’s awesome to see!

As the winner of this year’s golden goblin, I have got to go with the very handsome squid. It’s unusual, well executed, and inspired me to play with some new organic patterns!

Well done to Stella, for winning, and to Ethan and Brodie for their amazing painting skills as well.


April 24, 2023
by Mrs Sinclair

Wellness Wednesday

In the middle of last term, we started having a slightly different Wednesday lunchtime, after discovering there was such a thing as ‘Wellness Wednesday’.  We already had a small book group (reading, discussion, and journaling) so to encourage a disconnect from technology (PCs, phones, laptops, etc.) our Wellness Wednesday session was born. Pupils can come in and do what they want, as long as it is relatively quiet and no technology is involved. We already have a no phone policy in the library (unless permission sought for educational use) however, this was ignored from time-to-time. On Wednesdays we are much stricter.

The relaxed atmosphere has been commented on by passing SLT. It is a really pleasant way to chill and wind down from screen time.


December 6, 2022
by Mrs Sinclair

Donations to the Library D&D Group

Dungeons & Dragons (and other RPGs) have been running for nearly 20 years in the school library. Over the last few years there has been an overwhelming resurgence in Dungeons & Dragons and as a result, since around 2016 the Friday activities group usually has over 25 pupils signing up to it, and recently we hit 39 pupils, which is over 10% of the school roll. Back in 2018 we received a number of welcome donations of core rule books and miniatures (we also have a miniature painting group on a Monday) to support the groups. These were very welcome and much needed as the librarian often provided her own resources for use.

Fast forward to 2022, there has been a resurgence in interest, especially within the younger year groups (S1&2), and they were more interested in actually borrowing the rule books to take home to read and use. This meant that the groups (Tuesday after school, Tuesday and Thursday lunchtime as well as the timetabled Friday afternoon activity sometimes didn’t have access to them if needed. Back in August/September a call was put out on Twitter and we received more core rule books as well as the newer Monsters of the Multiverse. They have proved popular. Some have been catalogued as reference only, which means we now don’t have to worry about pupils forgetting to bring the borrowed books in with them every

week. There will alwyas be copies available in the library as well as ones for borrowing to take home, which is encouraged.

More recently, we also receive donations from a couple of independent RPG / D&D publishers. Another donation came our way from Grinning Frog, their

latest book, You Ask, I Write covering everything from adventure design, RPG ideas, locations, running sessions, etc. The publisher / writer has also donated their RPG magazine The Oracle as well.

A small publisher, Cawood Publishing, from Vancouver in Canada recently sent a couple of his books from the ‘Monsters’ series of books. Monsters of the City and Monsters of the Wilderness are certainly welcome additions to the RPG shelves.

We’d like to thank the aforementioned donors without whom, we’d have struggled to provide easily for large D&D / RPG groups.

A list of donors is available here.

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.)








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