Category Archives: Activities

Library Lessons: What is a Word?

A discussion on words and the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year leading into creating emoji book reviews

Inside the Teenager’s Brain: CPD on stress and teens’ well-being


Huey, Louie & Melvil Dewey in: the Quest for the Missing Duck an Introduction to Using the Library

Many of you may recognize this slide presentation as it was originally an introduction to using the Dewey Decimal Classification System, but owing to a lot of feedback I received I decided to redo it as a general introduction to using the library as it was too cumbersome and complicated in it’s original form.

So with a few tweaks, language and slide changes may I present:


An Intro-duck-tion to Using the Library


Activity Idea: Library Myth Busters

This event can be run by following the Myth Busters format of having small teams investigating various Library Myths and then presenting their findings to the entire group or class. If permission can be obtained for filming, a short DVD could be made of the proceedings. This could tie into a larger media and film-making programme that can be run over half-term or summer holidays. It is fun and educational – teenagers learn how the library works and what the staff do all day as well as debunking misconceptions they may have on what goes on in libraries.

Here are a a list of library myths that can either be debunked or confirmed:

  • Librarians have lots of time to read on the job
  • All librarians are fast readers
  • Public libraries are only busy during the school year
  • Public libraries are only busy during summer holidays
  • Libraries are used only by those who cannot afford to buy their own books.
  • Librarians have no stress
  • Librarians have read every book in the library.
  • Librarians know the answer to everything
  • Everyone who works in the library is a librarian
  • Libraries are just about getting books
  • Libraries aren’t necessary because everything’s available on the internet
  • Libraries have plenty of money because they get so many donated books and charge so much in fines
  • The librarian can be held responsible for everything that kids check out because they work for the government and must protect young people from bad things
  • School libraries aren’t needed because kids can get everything they want at the public library or online
  • Librarians wear their hair in buns, have wire-rimmed glasses, and say shhhhh! all the time
  • Librarians only issue books
  • Everything in the library is free
  • You have to know Dewey to use the library
  • Libraries are serious and quiet all the time
  • It is difficult to get a library card
  • Libraries are for English readers only

The list is by no means complete and if anyone would like to add library myths in the comments you are most welcome.

Jonas Herriot – My day at YLG London Unconference

The YLG London Unconference was the first conference I have been to not just as an attendee, but as one of the organisers. As such my experience of the event started well before the actual day, with helping the other more experienced Committee members get the event ready, and giving my input where I could. Watching the event develop, seeing the session proposals get added to the event page, and talking to other students/colleagues/librarians about attending certainly got me in the mood for when the day actually came.

Turning up to the venue nice and early so that I could help set up and prepare the goody bags (and get a few cups of coffee in!) meant that I was well situated to watch as the hall turned into an event space, and then see as it slowly filled up with keen faces as my fellow librarians arrived. The actual unconference kicked off with a brief introduction from the committee, and then we were straight into getting peoples sessions proposed and sign up sheets created. Seeing all the great ideas that people wanted to talk about, and then watching as others displayed the same passion as they signed up for, and debated the sessions was very interesting mainly due to the fact that it showed that we all had very similar interests.

We then had an excellent introduction talk from James Dawson where he discussed his experience of growing up and using his school library as a place of refuge and calm. I have to admit that listening to that reminded me of my secondary school where I also spent as much time in the library as possible. Unfortunately I could only drift in and out of his talk, as we had to draft the days timetable, but what I heard was not only interesting, but also very inspiring.

The first session I attended was based on coding, minecraft and teaching kids. This session weaved in and out of various tech related subjects and the practical applications for libraries. The attendees was a lovely mix of experts and novices, and was for me probably the best session of the day. It allowed those with no experience of this subject to be given advice and ideas from those who had tried out games and tools which included: minecraft, raspberry pi’s, titanpad, coding basic fighting fantasy programs, gimp, smartphones as stop motion picture creation devices, scratch, linux, and using USB sticks to run external programs. Very interesting to hear how each of these had been used by libraries, and how they had surmounted the various problems they had encountered along the way.

The next session was the one I had proposed, dealing with graphic novels and the levels of access various libraries ascribed to them. We discussed what restrictions various services (both school and public) placed on this format of book, ranging from no age restriction, through to all but the most sanitised and tame being available only to over 15s. I have to admit that the main reason I ran this session was to help inform my upcoming dissertation project, and the responses I got will prove very helpful to me. While it was a relatively small session, the knowledge of those attending was good, and I came out of it keen to run more sessions in the future.

We then broke for lunch which as well as providing a chance for something to eat, also allowed us to mingle with others from different sessions and discuss what we had learnt, and pass on any helpful snippets we had gleamed to others. Following this we were back into session 3, which was how to successfully run teen reading groups. I chose this session as it is something I will be setting up this year, and listening to what had worked for others would prove invaluable. Ideas such as running Manga groups which didn’t just read the books, but which also did drawing is a good example of what was discussed here; the idea to make the groups about more than reading, and thereby keeping teens interested. Others ideas included using stupid activities to draw them in and break down barriers, as well as making your face known and accessible to them. The idea of rewards not bribes to keep them coming, and using your current readers as ambassadors to reach out to those who may not be current readers were also very good. Also mentioned was the amount of resources such as Carnegie/Greenaway which you can find, and how to build your sessions around you. Once again I was impressed with the passion, ideas, and resourcefulness of those who I was sat with.

The last session dealt with the afore mentioned Carnegie/Greenaway, and what went on behind the scenes, and how the award was ran and judged. This highlighted all the hard work which took place each year and left me impressed with those involved. Less interactive than other sessions but equally enjoyable, I left this session with a far greater understanding of the award, and a strange desire to one day be more involved. I should also mention that this session stood out as we got to try kangaroo, crocodile, buffalo, and ostrich meat, which is quite unusual for a conference. The reason for this though, was showcasing how you can take a book (in this case about cannibalism) and create activities you can then use with children to pique their interest, and create talking points.

The day then finished with everybody coming back into the big hall and a closing talk to end the day, before people started the journey home. As with all conferences I left feeling more involved in the profession, and more connected to the larger community we are in. There is also a tinge of regret about those sessions I couldn’t attend, but this is dealt with by speaking those who had attended and swapping stories and notes. I was very impressed with the professionalism and knowledge of my colleague who helped run the day and was grateful to be able to spend the time with them, and all of the delightful and interesting librarians who attended. We also started making plans for the next one, so watch this space…

Group Idea: STEM Cell

I had this idea ages ago and I promptly wrote down then got on with doing other things and it soon faded into the low murmur at the back of my mind. It popped up again this morning as I was reading an article about building Lego robots and I thought that it be a fantastic basis for an engineering club, that jogged my memory and the STEM Cell idea bubbled up again but with new pieces added to the mental framework.

A cell can be many things, two of which are:

the functional basic unit of life


a unit of a clandestine cell system, a penetration-resistant form of a secret or outlawed organization


A stem cell has the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.

STEM stands for Science, Technology Engineering Maths

The STEM Cell will be a group dedicated to experimenting with each of the four disciplines by using practical and creative activities and experiments to create or enhance an interest in one or more of the subjects. Much like a covert cell the can be copied and used anywhere and the experience enhanced by communication with other cells and information exchanged about experiments that have been conducted. Similar to stem cells themselves, a group such as this will allow its members to use what they learn to become anything as they grow and develop.

This type of group would by its very nature be cross-curricular and run in conjunction with the Science, Mathematics, ICT and Design & Technology Departments but organised by the Library.

Activities can include:

The Mentos and Diet Coke experiment

Raspberry Pi & programming

Code making & breaking – this one can be used for intergroup competitions

Mathematical Origami

Building Robots from Lego

Activities can be set up to run on a termly or half-termly basis depending on the length & complexity of the activity and the capability of the young people involved in the group.

At present I am still working on ironing out all the details but if anyone has ideas please feel free to leave them in the comments field below.

Doctor Who: Starting a Library Club

Doctor Who (the television show) hits a half-century this Saturday. It was with with an eye to this that I started chatting to a group of students about the possibility of starting a Doctor Who Club. This was in late June of this year.

I knew that I was on to a winner immediately as I saw eyes light up, and you know that when people get so excited that they start talking so fast that words sometimes come out in the wrong order that something must be done! I knew that the person that should be doing something was me and so I did. I started speaking to more students about the Doctor, asking them if they were fans and what they thought about a Doctor Who club in the school. Most of the kids wanted one – and they wanted it to start immediately, I put them off until after the summer holiday and when school came back in September the first words out of a number of students mouths to me were not Hello or “How was your summer?” no they were questions on when the club was going to start.

Working together the students and I came up with a name for the club, a logo and a time to meet that would suit most members.
wholigans50Personally I have never beeen a fan of the term “Whovian”.

The club had a soft launch half way through the first half-term and will have a proper launch on the Tuesday after the 23rd November.

At present discussions have been limited to favourite Doctor (a toss-up between Tom Baker and Matt Smith so far) and what people think The Day of the Doctor will be about.

Once the club is firmly established I am hoping to use the club for cross-curricular purposes, from creative writing with the English Department, discussions on ageism (one of the recurring themes of conversation so far has been about how a lot of the students do not like the idea of a Peter Capaldi Doctor as he is too old), sexism (a female Doctor anyone?) and bullying (humans are roughly treated by a number of alien races and vice versa) for PSHE. In fact any subject can be made a great deal more interesting with the addition of the Doctor. Take History – the Doctor can visit any point in time, and space which ties in the Science Department (plus the TV show with Dr Brian Cox discussing how possible the science of Doctor Who is). Citizenship can encompass discussions on Fascism (Daleks), Socialism (Cybermen) and ruling by divine right (The Time Lords on Gallifrey), RE can look at ethics with the Doctor and the Master and their actions. I am also hoping to tie in the Design & Technology Department with building a life-size TARDIS.

I am not forgetting the Library as there are hundreds of the Doctor’s adventures in book form, not to mention Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures, as well as comic books and fan fiction.

Like all clubs it depends on the members and what they would like to do, I do not want to be too prescriptive but will guide discussions and activity ideas and let them make up their minds on what they would like to do.

Also it may give me the excuse to wear a fez at work – fezzes are cool!

Activity Idea: Stop-Motion LEGO Movie

I had been toying with the idea of making a Lego stop-motion movie for quite a while before I had the idea for a Halloween short which gave me the impetus to get started.

For the camera I used my Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone, the cast was composed of a number of Lego minifigures.
cast of halloween for tl
The set was made out of a Lego baseplate and handmade scenery.
lego base for tlscenerybackground for tl
The most intricate part of the whole endeavour was making the bookshelf and books out of cardboard.
shelf for tllittle books for tl
I was rather pleased with the finished result:

It is important to have a script, for even though it is a silent film you need to keep track of what is going to happen and where the intertitles have to be placed.

Depending on how much movement is occurring I found it best to keep scenes fairly short to prevent accidents, including fingers appearing at the wrong moment, camera and set collapse as general mishaps that would necessitate the re-shooting of an entire scene. The Lego bumps on the baseplate made it easy to keep track of where the characters are supposed to move.

Creating a Lego movie can be a good way of engaging a group of teens, you can get a group working on script development, another on set design and creation, depending on the number of scenes you want to incorporate you can have multiple phone-camera operators, Lego minifigure wranglers each controlling the movements of their character and director (or directors) who maintain overall control of the filming.

I would recommend using a mobile phone tripod to cut down on camera shake although Youtube does offer the tools to stabilise the finished movie.

Jobs for a group-made stop-motion film:

Set designers/creators
Intertitle creators
Publicity team

Book Week Scotland 2013 – Schools Resources

The Scottish Booktrust is running their book week at the end of November and they have a brilliant school resource on how to get involved with their Biig Book bash.

Looking for ideas on how to get pupils and staff involved in Book Week Scotland? This resource pack can be used before, during or after Book Week Scotland 2013 to help you on your journey to becoming a reading school!

The resource pack features ideas for getting both staff and pupils engaged in Book Week Scotland activities, including:

* suggestions for a ‘Big Book Bash’, from a staff book swap to a pupils’ book review club;
* ideas on how to get the whole school sharing their current reading;
* guidance on holding a reading flashmob!

Whether you want a few activity ideas or plan to hold an outlandish celebration of the written word, this resource pack provides the tools to get you started.

You do not even have to be Scottish to use the ideas (and they have some great ones!

You can download the school resource pack here:

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum!

If you do nothing for TLAP Day you should get a group together and sing a shanty! Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum is a perfect one, it even has literary links as it is based on the song from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and sung by Long John Silver.

Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

The mate was fixed by the bosun’s pike
The bosun brained with a marlinspike
And cookey’s throat was marked belike
It had been gripped by fingers ten;
And there they lay, all good dead men
Like break o’day in a boozing ken
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Fifteen men of the whole ship’s list
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Dead and be damned and the rest gone whist!
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

The skipper lay with his nob in gore
Where the scullion’s axe his cheek had shore
And the scullion he was stabbed times four
And there they lay, and the soggy skies
Dripped down in up-staring eyes
In murk sunset and foul sunrise
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Fifteen men of ’em stiff and stark
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Ten of the crew had the murder mark!
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

‘Twas a cutlass swipe or an ounce of lead
Or a yawing hole in a battered head
And the scuppers’ glut with a rotting red
And there they lay, aye, damn my eyes
Looking up at paradise
All souls bound just contrawise
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Fifteen men of ’em good and true
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
Ev’ry man jack could ha’ sailed with Old Pew,
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

There was chest on chest of Spanish gold
With a ton of plate in the middle hold
And the cabins riot of stuff untold,
And they lay there that took the plum
With sightless glare and their lips struck dumb
While we shared all by the rule of thumb,
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

More was seen through a sternlight screen…
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Chartings undoubt where a woman had been
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

‘Twas a flimsy shift on a bunker cot
With a dirk slit sheer through the bosom spot
And the lace stiff dry in a purplish blot
Oh was she wench or some shudderin’ maid
That dared the knife and took the blade
By God! she had stuff for a plucky jade
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
We wrapped ’em all in a mains’l tight
With twice ten turns of a hawser’s bight
And we heaved ’em over and out of sight,
With a Yo-Heave-Ho! and a fare-you-well
And a sudden plunge in the sullen swell
Ten fathoms deep on the road to hell,
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!