A New Term, A New Carpet, The Same Library (mostly)

Welcome back as the cycle of the year continues into a new session and new term. Welcome to the new S1 who have hopefully now found their feet and are settled into secondary school life.

The summer holidays are now becoming but a distant memory as pupils and staff settle back into routine and the work well and truly begins.

The school library, which is as busy as ever, has undergone some change over the summer. The fading beige carpet of 30+years old, was replaced by a bright teal one (sure it was meant to be more turquoise) which has really lifted the library visually.





The hard work of emptying the library and setting it back up again was done by our janitors and in particular, Mr Ritch who was very organised and ensured everything went back in the right place. (I can’t thank him enough!) It is no easy task moving over 6000 books and other resources, as well as every bit of movable furniture, fixtures and fitting.

The layout is pretty much the same as before, but the magazine racks have been removed and will be re-purposed as notice boards as the plastic racks were brittle and cracking. One will go back in the lower library, with the other being put upstairs in a much reduced Careers Section.

The Upper Library has had most of the shelves dividing it removed, with a couple of bays being retained against a wall for university prospectuses and some careers books. It was decided to finally get rid of the job leaflets (and as such there are plenty of plastic file boxes available for re-use if pupils or departments want them) as much careers work is now done online via My World of Work(Photo to follow once resources replaced)

Most S1 pupils have been issued with their library cards, as well as sitting the Accelerated Reader ‘Star Reading Test (despite internet issues) and they have begun borrowing books in earnest. S2 – 6 have been issued with ‘back-up’ barcode labels, via register teachers, to stick into their planners.

A handful of pupils come into the library before official opening time in the morning to ‘help’, by doing a few minutes of shelving and shelf tidying and more pupils would be welcome to do this. If pupils are interested in helping at other times or joining a more formal voluntary pupil library scheme

Formal lunchtime activities haven’t started up yet (except for ‘Luncheon & Dragons’ on Thursday), but library regulars are continuing to run their own D&D, MtG games, or board games. Most pupils who use the library at lunchtime are engaged with what they are doing, whether it is reading, schoolwork, leisure activities and it is great to see so many pupils from different year groups sharing the space and interacting with each other. It has to be pointed out, though that if pupils require computers for school work, they get priority over leisure use. The library is usually very busy at lunchtimes.

Friday activities! Well, the long running Dungeons & Dragons / RPG  activity has exploded in size. There are now 39 pupils taking part (over 10% of the school roll) playing Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and Starfinder role playing games, and Magic the Gathering. This means the whole of library space is being used. Thankfully, pupils are leading most of the groups, with Mrs S taking on the beginners D&D group. A couple of teachers also support this activity.



S1 Writing for Publication

All S1 pupils visited the library today (Thurs 10th May) along with their English teachers and SfL assistant to work on the We are Writers project. This outcome of this project will be a book of writing (poetry, plays, stories, etc) which will be made available for sale. Proceeds will go towards the purchase of books chosen by the pupils themselves for the school library which will boost stock and support the reading programme S1 pupils follow.

One wouldn’t believe that nearly 60 pupils were working across the lower and upper library as they were all quietly focused on their writing and uploading it to the We are Writers website. Those who had finished went on to help with designing a cover for the book, thinking about a launch presentation, and helping with proofreading.

They will return to the library for another two periods next week to continue with this work.


Research in the Library – Environment Project

Another round of library research started last week with S1 Geography classes starting out on their Environment projects (Environment Project leaflet). Classes are given 6 periods in the library to carry out their research. The first lesson consists of a reminder about planning their work and showing where the relevant resources are shelved or displayed, as well as the importance of noting down which resources they used for a bibliography.

Pupils may have chosen their topic already, or this is the lesson in which they can make their decision by looking at the resources available, and discussing their ideas with the Geography teacher of school librarian.

We encourage them to do some background reading prior to filling in a planning template, especially if they have chosen a topic the know little about. The template gets them to think about timescale for the project, keywords and key phrases which they can use for searching for information in books or on the

internet, and research questions to help them think about exactly what they want to find out. The template also allows pupils to record the resources they used for their research in preparation to prepare a bibliography at the end of their project.

The classes have all settled really well into their research and most pupils are independently carrying out their research. Help is on hand from their Geography teacher, school librarian, and Support for Learning assistant where needed.

A week in the Life of A School Library

In the run up to the end of term, things get fairly frenetic in the school and in the library as work such as folios and dissertations to be submitted for the qualifications are in the final stages of being produced.  Computers are available in the library and S5 pupils who have study in the library use them on a regular basis. They are available to S6 pupils, but uptake is maybe not so good – remember folks, they are there for you to use. If a class hasn’t got them booked, they are available!

It must be emphasised, that although the library is a busy active place at lunchtimes, space for work is available in the Upper Library (let the librarian, Mrs S, know you want to use it) and, most importantly, if pupils need a computer for work at this time – they will get a computer if available. School work ALWAYS gets priority over the leisure use.

Monday started off quiet with a couple of English classes in for library period (book exchange and reading) and a bit of computer use. An S2 PSE class was also in using the Upper Library, careers section and laptops to research Career and subject choice. Most of the work is moving to online, using My World of Work and pupils should now be registered on this site which is used both by the school and Skills Development Scotland for careers work. Pupils, though have been advised, as in the case of any research, to have a look at different sources of information and not to rely on just the one. There are further links to Careers information and other subject related links on the LibLinks section of the Blog.

Lunchtime on Monday saw a depleted miniature painting club, however, this would have been in part to the library consultation with lunchtime users, led by the Head Teacher, which took place in the library. We were looking at: What does a school library do? What does ours do well? How could we improve it?

It has to be noted that the miniature painting competition has been extended until after the Easter holidays. The trophy donated by porfessional mini painter, Michael Mordor, has now arrived in the school. Michael will also be judging this competition (via photographs of completed minis).

Tuesday was as busy as it has been for a few weeks, although only 6 periods out of the 7 were booked by classes this time. Chess club also ran at lunchtime.

Adavanced Higher PE have a regular booking for computers in the morning. S3 English came in for a library period which also included giving them a chance to work on computers to get on with folios. Another PSE class used the Upper Library. In the afternoon S4 RME were in looking at the moral issues surrounding abortion. Library PCs and laptops were used, as well as some book resources. There was productive discussion around this controversial issue.

The highlight of the day was another ‘innovative’ lesson (Last week it was Mrs Hunter’s class) where Miss Grieve’s 4R English used the library to work on their board games they had devised to help them remember quotations from Macbeth. Some pupils also worked on their folio pieces.






The after-school D&D group met as usual where the adventuring party have returned to The Sunless Citadel. This time one of the PCs entered a room without properly checking it and was subsequently set upon by giant rats – which they all dispatched fairly quickly. They just now need to search for the possible treasure.

It should be noted that computers, and the Upper Library are also available for study, research, and homework on Tuesdays after school, and Mrs Thomson is available for giving support in your studies.

Wednesday morning proved busy with two S4 English classes in period 1. One to use the computers for folio work or to do revision (periods 1 & 2), the other for [part of] a library period.  1R came in for a library period. Most read and a handful did book quizzes on the computer. The final S2 PSE class of the term came in in the afternoon to finish off their work on careers and subject choice.

Thursday was a tad quieter, but felt no less busy due to the amount of library admin work, which has been ongoing all week – the shelving, shelf tidying, and the processing, classification & cataloguing of new stock, and book covering. The processing had been helped in part by an S3 pupil, on Wednesday morning as he glued the date labels into a pile of new books.

The Auxiliaries were shown how to use ALICE, the Library Management System to issue and return books. This will mean that if the Librarian, is off ill, away on courses or school trips, some semblance of a library service can still be offered.

Lunchtime saw the weekly Luncheon & Dragons group play a short game. Mrs S continues to lead the players through an underground complex as they try to find the Forge of Fury for treasures untold. This week they managed to dispatch two nasty Orcs and found a couple of prisoners, whom they still need to rescue.

In the afternoon, Mrs S headed to The Orkney Library & Archive in Kirkwall to have a meeting with Principal Librarian and the Children’s Librarian. This allows for professional liaison as well as the Orkney Library acting as a school’s library service, when we need to boost our stock, in particular for the major research projects, for instance in Geography and History.

Friday started in a relaxed manner with 2T English coming in for a library period. There was a brief discussion with a History/RME teacher about upcoming requirements. Later we are expecting an RME class in who are also researching abortion in terms of ‘pro-life’ / ‘pro-choice’. The day will finish up with the weekly activities session where 20 pupils play Role Playing Games. A small group plays Magic the Gathering, but the majority, split into 3 groups play Dungeons & Dragons. D&D continues to prove very popular, and albeit a leisure activity, many elements link to a number of Curriculum for Excellence outcomes across Literacy, Numeracy, and Health & Wellbeing. More info here (also tells you about the game and what is involved).

In the morning, before classes started, we had an unusual sight – S1 pupils asked if they could do some filming for History – something to do with Scottish King, Alexander III and succession. The next thing I saw were crowns and cloaks coming out. The ensuing photograph, though was a bit blurry.

Thus, a long week, made longer by thinking Wednesday was Thursday, is nearly over. Mrs S uses usually uses Friday to have a general tidy up, including some shelves, getting some shelving done, or writing a blog post. There are some books needing checked on the catalogue, but they can wait until next week. Shelving and shelf tidying here we come, in preparation for a stock take during the Easter Holidays.

Have a good weekend, and remember the clocks go forward early Sunday morning!

A Busy Day in the School Library

One looks down at the diary part the way through the day and realises the library has been booked for all but one period, and that was booked last minute which we could easily accommodate

Through the day I have seen:

Advanced Higher PE students – computer access for two periods; S3s changing books; S2 PSE lesson doing careers work using My World of Work to help with S3 subject choices as part of the library based information literacy programme; S2 History lesson looking at the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of JFK

In the afternoon, Mrs Hunter’s Higher English class (two periods) were revising their key texts, Doctor Jekyll & Mr Hyde and Romeo and Juliet using interactive group working to identify and memorise key quotations.  Three groups are searching for quotations from Romeo Juliet in the library, their classroom and English corridor – one member goes to find the quotation, memorise it and return to the library a recite it to another member of the group who writes it down and they swap round. Another three groups are looking at a stack of quotations from Doctor Jekyll & Mr Hyde and with group discussion are sorting them by a method of their own choice, eg. character, setting, themes. The atmosphere in the library at this point is a studious buzz with all the pupils actively engaged.

We have had a fair few fifth year on study periods using the upper library as well as the computers, and of course, lunchtime activities continued with the chess club with Mr Nind, leisure use, and folks reading or doing homework.

Despite being busy with bookings, a variety of library admin tasks were also carried, none the least the backlog of filing of them and clearing out old journals and newspapers. The issue desk has also been tidied, but has filled up quickly with more things to do.

The day will end with the weekly after school Dungeons & Dragons club with the Librarian, Mrs Sinclair and study support with Mrs Thomson.




Referencing and your Dissertations

It is coming to that time of year when pupils will be writing up projects and dissertations for courses assessments.  It is important to ensure you acknowledge all resources used or consulted whilst you are doing your research.

Here is a guide to Referencing & Bibliography to help you.

This guide, along with other useful resources, can be found in the Resources – Documents Library section of this blog via the menu above.

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.