A New Year, A New Term, New Books

Christmas has been and gone and is now but a distant memory as we settle down into the third term.  The library is not so heavily booked as it was last term as departments, especially in the senior years, are preparing for prelims, folio work and subsequently the National qualifications later in the session.  S2 Careers Library & Information Literacy Skills course will take place later this term.  Pupils will be taught how to use the Careers section of the library as well as finding relevant information online.  This is a part of the options process where pupils choose what they plan to study in 3rd year.

Junior years, in the main, still get a chance to use the library for personal reading during library periods in their English lessons.  Most visit the once a week, however, they are also given reading time at the beginning of each lesson.  It feels like loans are up on previous years; our S1 and 2 particularly borrow lots of books.  Time will tell if this feeling is matched in the loan statistics when they are run at the end of the session.

New Books

100_0890A batch of new books arrived just before Christmas, and most have
now been processed and are on display and available for loan.

Stan Lee Excelsior Award for Graphic Novels & Manga

We will also be expecting eight new graphic novels very soon as we embark yet again on shadowing the Stan Lee Excelsior Award. This annual award for Graphic Novels and Manga is the only such award judged by 11-16 year olds.  In Stromness Academy, pupils are encouraged to take part, extending their reading into a form they may not have tried before.  Each participant will get a reward card which when filled (all eight books read and rated) will be entered into a prize draw for a gift voucher from a local shop.



The library continues to be a very popular place to be at lunchtime, with sometimes 40+ pupils visiting (more than 10% of the school roll) at a given time, but usually averages aroun 30.  We try to keep it a relaxed space at lunchtime where a variety of different activities can take place.  On any given day one can find pupils reading, working on the computers, playing boardgames (chess, draughts, Connect4, etc), gaming on the PCs – although work will always get priority, playing Magic the Gathering, doing homework or project work, or just sitting chilling or chatting.

Recently, some pupils and Mrs Sinclair, librarian, have been playing ‘D&D Shorts’.  This is an abbreviated version of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, adapted by Mrs Sinclair to enable 20-30 minute short games.  This proved popular with some pupils new to the game.


Library Activities – Dungeons & Dragons

Last period on Friday afternoons has been an enduring part of Stromness Academy for 30+ years.  There has been an activity in the library in one from or another since the mid 90s when we started with Stable Management (theory) and A Christmas library Display group.  When some pupils asked if they could play Dungeons & Dragons, I agreed and we haven’t looked back since, now going into our 17th year.

p1220459This term sees the Friday D&D group increase by another six pupils, having already gained similar number back in August, and another couple in October.  We now have 23 players,as well as a group of five more experienced players on a Tuesday after school.

This activity could not run with these numbers with out the willing and able help of three pupils who lead games, whilst I run the fourth – our newest players.  If they didn’t run the games, the activity would be restricted to 5 or six pupils at the most.

Each group will have the leader, the Dungeon Master (DM), and 4-6 players maximum. Groups could be bigger, but this would not make for a particularly good game experience within the time constraints we have.  Our new players are keen, lively and even come in at lunchtimes to create or level up characters; something we don’t have time for during the activities session.  I suspect there are a few budding DMs among them which will be useful when our seniors leave school.





January in the Library

It has been some time since the last post here.  January has been and gone and we are already in February.  A lot of things have been going on in the library as shown below (in no particular order).

Activities: Dungeons & Dragons – The increasingly popular D&D activity on Tuesday after school and Friday afternoons continues.  On Tuesdays, a small group of 5-6 pupils meets to play a game run by myself.  We are using the 5th edition Starter set running The Lost Mines of Phandelver adventure.  It is proving quite taxing for the pupils’ characters at times.  Just a pity we only have 50 minutes to play it in.



On Friday afternoons, there are three D&D groups run by pupils.  This gives me a chance to play for a change, in a slightly steampunk game designed and run by a second year pupil.  This game also is a bit of a hybrid between 4e and 5e which is working fairly well.  Our characters are running from an army and have now found themselves in a cave system to get through the mountains.  We were last seen to be trying to deal with a horde of goblins and a sleepy troll cuddling a chicken – don’t ask!

Lunchtimes – The library continues to be a busy place with anywhere between half a dozen and 30 pupils visiting, depending on time, over the course of the split lunch.  Computers are well used, mostly for leisure use, but work will always get priority.  Some folks come in to read and / or chat quietly which in most cases is acceptable, but when noise levels rise words will be said.

It is important that food and drink are NOT brought into the library.  This Librarian was rather put out on the weather closure last Friday – tidying a very messy fiction section is tedious enough but to find stale, hard, mouldy bread and empty bottles of milk shake behind the books was beyond a joke.

Tidying in progress.  The books on the floor indicate how much has been randomly shelved, let alone those just dumped at the end of shelves.  Please help to keep everything tidy.
Tidying in progress. The books on the floor indicate how much has been randomly shelved and needing put in the right section, let alone those just dumped at the end of shelves. Please help to keep everything tidy.

More words will be said about this.  Both the Junior and Senior Fiction sections have now bee given a good tidy and I would hope that library users respect this and take responsibility for helping to keep everything tidy and food free.


The trading card game, Magic the Gathering, continues to be very popular as a self-directed lunchtime activity and I am not averse to a game or two myself.  MtG is also a popular Friday afternoon activity.  A couple of other table top games have also been tried – Necromunda and another, whose name currently escapes me.  Warhammer occasionally features too.



Lessons – January was fairly quiet in terms of class bookings with the English department library periods being the only ones.  In mid-February S2 PSE will have five weeks in here doing Careers Information Literacy Skills prior to their S3 subject choice.  Planning meetings, emails and discussions have already taken place and the tricky logistics appear to have been worked out – time will tell.

Last term, S1 pupils submitted ‘alternative book reviews’ as part of the Library & Information Literacy Skills course.  They could do whatever they wanted, whether it was a poster, mobile, model or game as long as it wasn’t a traditional written review.  Their imagination was the only limit.  A great selection of ideas was produced.  Pupils, in library period, spoke about what they did and about the book.  The work was displayed in the English corridor and now some is in the library.


P1090347    P1090355    P1090356

Recently S1 and S2 pupils, during library periods, were given the opportunity to browse catalogues, leaflets and the excellent Teen Titles magazine and make some selections for the library.  This gives them an opportunity to get involved in stock choices.  Budget constraints do mean that not everyone’s suggestions can be acted upon, but at least they can go on a wishlist.

Careers Resources – We are expecting a delivery of new careers books any day now (weather and boats (or planes) permitting).  Back in November / December an offer of free books was flagged up on School Librarians’ Network and I looked into it.  In this economic climate, this was too good an offer to miss so a number of books on different careers were ordered.  Parents or pupils interested in getting their own copies can find a list of resources available here: How2Become.  The website itself could also offer useful careers and choice information.  More information on these books will be provided in due course, when they arrive in school.

Links to careers websites and LiveBinders are available in the LibLinks section of the blog.

Stan Lee Excelsior Award for Graphic Novels & Manga – At the time of writing the eight graphic novels on the 2016 shortlist should be winging their way to Orkney, having been delayed by lack of stock.  This is frustrating as the order was placed just before Christmas and we have now lost a month of reading the books and shadowing this award.  The display is nearly read and just awaiting the addition of the books.  Pupils are invited to come along to a meeting on Thursday so that we can get the shadowing of this award started –  books or no books!  We have also ordered the five books of the Junior Award, even though we are not eligible to shadow that.  They will make a good addition to our growing collection of Graphic Novels.

GN poster     Manga poster

For further information on SLEA, please visit the website: Stan Lee Excelsior Award.

Online Resources – We have continued to subscribe to Complete Issues.  This potentially useful resource  has been under used despite termly reminders to staff and pupils.  The subscription will be reviewed at the next renewal, but please do look at it in the meantime as it is potentially a very good resource for current and moral issues for discursive essay, etc. Further information can be found here.  Username and password is available from the library.


FS 1 Feb 2016

Stan Lee Excelsior Award for Graphic Novels & Manga

It is that time of year again when eight graphic novels and manga, shortlisted for the Stan Lee Excelsior Award have recently arrived in school, been hastily processed and are now on display.


Also on display are a few non-fiction books about graphic novels, manga and illustration so if you want to learn more about the genre you can borrow these too.


This award is judged by young people 11-16 years of age who will read and rate each book in four areas: Story; Artwork; Characters; Dialogue. They may also make comments about the book as well. The rating forms are handed in then sent to the award founder and organiser, Paul Register, School Librarian at Ecclesfield School in Sheffield. These are then used to narrow the field down to 1st, 2nd and 3rd.


Last session, a few pupils took part in the award, but it is hoped more might take part this year as there appears to be a number of Graphic Novel readers in the (not so new) S1. Also, we are tying it in with the S1 and 2 Reading Record allowing pupils reading the shortlist to substitute up to two amended (silver) graphic novel task sheets for the usual required sheets. The pupils would also need to fill in the briefer official ratings form and hand in. There will also be a reward card, which on completion of all eight shortlisted books, will be entered into a prize draw.

Instructions for taking part in the SLEA

  1. Borrow one of the eight shortlisted books – get it stamped out by the Librarian.???????????????????????????????
  2. Use the SLEA task sheet provided to help you evaluate, rate and comment on each book. If you are in S1 or 2, you can use up to two of these sheets towards your Bronze or Silver Reading Record instead of any of the other task sheets.
  3.  Fill in an official SLEA Rating Form for each of the books you read and hand in to the Librarian.
  4. If you have a reward card get it stamped and initialled by the librarian when you hand in the rating form.

Reward Card

There are 8 Graphic Novels and Manga on the SLEA shortlist. If you read, evaluate and rate ALL eight of Reward card imagethe books you will receive a small prize. All fully completed cards will be entered into a prize draw for a £10 gift token. Ask Mrs Sinclair for the Reward Card.