Stromness Academy Library

Books, reading and life in a school library

May 22, 2019
by Mrs Sinclair

Primary 7 Transition in the Library

Primary 7 pupils, who will be joining us in August as our new S1s, are in school this week to experience three days at the Academy. This involves tour of the school led by older pupils, activities, and being on timetable in the subjects they will do from August.

During their English lessons today, they were introduced to the Accelerated Reader scheme which the English department run, and did their initial reading test. They then came to the library to have a look at the resources and borrow a book if they wanted one.

Mrs Sinclair, the Librarian managed to do a quick introduction to the library and its various activities to most groups, although timing was short. Pupils were told that they could borrow a book and it was emphasised that they needed to take care of them, being informed that, as is policy here, books borrowed that are lost or damaged would have to be replaced or paid for. They are expected to return the books borrowed today during the first week in August, when they start the academy properly. Some of the pupils also availed themselves of the free (older) books on offer taking them home to read or give to siblings.

It has to be said, that the short transition activity in the library would not have been possible or run as easily without the help of five pupil library assistants, all S1, and the S4 pupil who stayed on after an exam specifically to help. We also had another last minute volunteer, also in first year who joined in and helped. These pupils helped the P7s fill out the issue slips for borrowing books, directed them and helped them find books, as well as handing out the AR bookmarks from the English Department. The S4 pupil manned the issue desk, ensuring books (and issue slips) were stamped. Thank you – all your help was much appreciated.

April 29, 2019
by Mrs Sinclair

Castles in the Library

Every year S1 History pupils study ‘Invasion & Independence’ which includes classroom based work on the plague, Scottish wars, as well as how to attack and defend castles.

This unit of work culminates in  pupils, in small groups, building their own model castles out of cardboard boxes, amongst other things. Some of these amazing models go on display in the library.

March 27, 2019
by Mrs Sinclair

Volunteer Pupil Library Assistants

The Pupil Library Assistant Training Scheme has recently been re-established after a few years hiatus, during which a few pupils have volunteered on an informal basis, helping with basic tidying and at special events such as National Poetry day or Spooky Happenings.

Sorting some donations into book boxes for departments to help support Accelerated Reader

Pupils can volunteer to help in the library before registration, at lunchtime, some intervals and possibly after school or on free periods and are required to make a regular commitment to the training and work. The training allows pupils to earn certificates for each level. Responsibilities, duties and commitment increase at each level. Pupils can also work towards Dynamic Youth and Youth Achievement Awards.

Tidying and sorting The Orcadian boxes

Thirteen pupils from S1 to S4 have volunteered to help in the library on a regular basis which will help to develop a number of skills which also link to Curriculum for Excellence.

  • Become Successful Learners; Confident Individuals; Responsible citizens and Effective Contributors (Curriculum for Excellence – Four Capacities)
  • Make a valuable contribution to the life of the school
  • Help develop the library and the services it offers
  • Help the library staff provide the best library service they can
  • Make a difference to other pupils’ learning
  • Act as a role model for other pupils
  • Improve your communication and problem-solving skills
  • Work well with others in a team
  • Take responsibility
  • Think on your feet
  • Have first choice of new stock, which you can help to choose
  • Have access to the library prior to official opening before registrations and some intervals
  • Have the chance to get involved in special events

Processing new books – labelling

Most of these pupils have signed up to do Dynamic Youth and Youth Achievement Awards which are peer assessed awards leading to recognised qualifications.

Meeting with Maureen Herdman, Community Learning, to discuss DY and YAA participation

March 7, 2019
by Mrs Sinclair

World Book Day in the Library

World Book Day is one of those celebrations that you know is happening in advance, however its timing in a hectic term can mean the day itself often catches me by surprise. This year the thought processes started last week and on Monday plans were put in place for an informal event in the library, advertised in the school daily bulletin.


New book being covered prior to display

A delivery of new books










World Book Day £1 books – a very nice surprise


This included:

  • Early access to some new books – many chosen  by pupils.
  • Book swap – bring in a book (in very good or excellent condition) and swap it for another to take away and read – for pupils and staff.
  • Share your favourite book or author.
  • Bookmark colouring in
  • National Book Tokens design competition – First prize = £250 book tokens for school; £100 tokens for pupil. More info from Mrs S. Entries to library by 5th

This, today with the arrival of more new books chosen by pupils and purchased with money donated by the Parent Council, as well as a surprise box of the £1 books, morphed into:

Around 20 pupils and a member of staff took part over the course of the 40 minute lunch break, with the colouring competition of book marks and images based on the Beast Quest books from the World Book Day website. This proved most popular. Attendees were also asked to fill in a mini survey with a view to suggesting more books for the library as well as filling out a short evaluation forms. Snacks, coffee and hot chocolate also proved popular, not surprisingly.










Quite a few pupils reserved some of the yet to be catalogue new books which only arrived today, as well as exchanging their £1 vouchers for the £1 WBD books which came as a complete surprise from the wonderful bookshop – Stromness Books & Prints. This proved popular. There was also an animated discussion about favourite books whih started on the back of filling in the survey.

For what effectively was a ‘last minute’ event, this lunchtime has been energetic, animated and most enjoyable.





March 5, 2019
by Mrs Sinclair

Extra-Curricular Activities in the School Library

The library is not only open during the timetabled school day, but is also available before registration from 8:35am (approx 8:25am onwards for pupil library assistants), lunchtime,  and after school.


Pupils often choose to do any of the organised activities (shown below) during lunchtimes on days other than the designated ones.

  • Reading
  • Homework
  • Research
  • Computers for work
  • Computers for leisure
  • Board games

  • Pupil Library Assistant Duties – The training scheme has recently been re-established with 11 volunteers.


  • Miniature Painting



  • Chess Club








  • Pupil Library Assistant Meeting
  • Dungeons & Dragons (After School)








  • Study Support (After School)


  • Magic the Gathering


  • ‘Luncheon & Dragons’ – a very short D&D session – sandwiches allowed


Friday Activities

  • D&D

  • Pathfinder








  • Magic the Gathering








  • Warhammer


February 13, 2019
by Mrs Sinclair

S2 Careers Lessons

Once again, the cycle of the school year has led us to options times. In the next few weeks pupils in S2 – 5 will be selecting their subjects for the following year.







As part of this process, S2 visit the library on several occasions to do Some Careers Information Literacy Skills, be introduced to the small Careers Section and to finding relevant information on the internet (Primarily, My World of Work).

The first lesson is loosely based on The Reading Game.







Pupils are split into 5 or 6 small groups depending on the size of class and given a starting station where the choose one of the career areas on that table, then between them select what they think are the the jobs that fit into the area, personal qualities and skills that are key to the career, as well as what school subjects might me required. Pupils only get a short time (5-8mins max) to make their selections and write them down on there sheet. A whistle is blown, and each group moves on to another station. The time they have a t each station reduces as the lesson proceeds.







Once finished, pupils will have been exposed to a number of career categories, and this has also enabled them to think about their own skills and qualities that they are good at thus enabling them to make better options choices and helping in the future, to write job, college, university applications, personal statements and CVs

February 5, 2019
by Mrs Sinclair

Dungeons & Dragons and Kind Donations

The Role Playing Games (RPG) activity in the school library at Stromness Academy has been running since 2003/4 or thereabouts. It started after a couple of pupils asked if they could run Dungeons & Dragons games in the library during Tuesday after school activities. Mrs Sinclair, Librarian, said “Yes” as she had played for he first time back in 1992 (two days before moving to Orkney and taking up her post at the Academy) and remembered enjoying that game.

The activity group back then consisted of four pupils and the Librarian, but grew to an average of seven players. Mrs Sinclair then offered Dungeons & Dragons as a Friday afternoon (part of the school timetable) activity. Over the years we have dabbled in other RPGs, including Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Fantasy RPG, Vampire the Masquerade, but the heart and soul of the group is still Dungeons and Dragons. We started in 3rd edition, moved forward t0 4e, and now play 5e, alongside a pupil running a Pathfinder RPG group. Games now run three times a week, Tuesday after school (1hr 10 mins), Thursday lunchtime – Luncheon & Dragons (30mins), and Friday activities (50 mins).








Resources (rule books, miniatures, map tiles, dice, etc.) for the group have mainly been supplied (loaned) by Mrs Sinclair, with core rule books being bought out of extra funding. Mrs S also spent many hours (and still does) of her own time planning and writing adventures for the group. However, in the last three years, the Friday activities group has grown from an average of 8 or 9 players three years ago, to a whopping 40 participants back in August, dropping to 33 in October, and now back up at 39 since the beginning of January. This is unprecedented and means that over 10% of the school roll participate in the RPG activity which for the time being is the biggest one in the school, surpassing the usual big take-up in the sporting activities. This meant that two Player’s Handbooks and single copies of the other core books just weren’t enough.

At the tale end of 2018, Michael Mordor, a professional miniature painter, (he had previously donated miniatures to the Monday mini painting club), with permission, put out a call via his Patreon Website and Twitter for donations of RPG materials for the school group. I wonder how many school libraries have such a well stocked RPG section?

The response was overwhelming with resources coming in from the UK, Europe and the US (as far as I know). We received Core rulebooks, modules, Xanathar’s and Volo’s, Dice galore, miniatures, dungeon tiles / maps, character sheet masters, DM screens.





















Thank you to everyone who donated (Scroll down to bottom of page) (If I have missed you off the list, please let me know). Your support is very much appreciated by the pupils and myself. F.S.

November 7, 2018
by Mrs Sinclair

Ancient Civilisations Research

S1 pupils are starting out on their Ancient Civilisations project, most of which is based in the library. To help them with their research pupils are given a couple of information literacy lessons.

Note making took place last week. It involves pupils being given a presentation on how to take notes, including emphasis on using their own words and not copying and pasting unless using direct quotes, and touching upon plagiarism. They are then given the opportunity to practise a few note making styles.

This week pupils looked at using keywords to find information in the contents and indexes of books. To do this they play ‘Keyword Bingo’. Each group gets four books on various Ancient Civilisations and a bingo sheet with keywords or key phrases. As keywords are called out, pupils record the word(s), search for them in the books and note down which book and page number on which they found them. If the word called is on the bingo card, they cross it off. This is a fun way of getting them using the books, as well as introducing them to some of the topics which they could choose to do their research on.






We supplement library stock from The Orkney Library & Archive which ensures we have plenty of resources for 70 or so pupils. School library owned books are available for loan, whilst the Orkney Library books are for reference, to be used in the library only.

Next lesson we will be looking at planning the project and starting to do the background reading, encouraging them to use the books prior to moving on to internet research, if any is needed – we do have plenty of resources!

November 5, 2018
by Mrs Sinclair

Spooky Happenings

Our well established annual storytelling event took place on Wednesday 31st October, with around twenty pupils attending the event for some snacks and to share their ghost and horror stories. We established ourselves in the reading zone, dropped the lighting and spent our lunch break trying to scare each other with stories.



Attendees were positive about the event as well as providing one or two suggestions for the future on the Evaluation forms.

If there was more time but other wise fab. MC

I had fun. NC

It was awesome. MM

It was really fun, no improvement needed. MD

I love the scary stories. Maybe people could be planned to read later. ER

The stories were funny. BL

It was interesting. CW

A bit more space to breathe. It was very cramped. FM

It was perfect and only thing that is needing changed is to get a blind for the window. CM

This was very spoopy and I loved it. RH

Fun. CB

More food and time. JL




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