Category Archives: public library

Program: Escape Room!

I had wanted to do an escape room at the library since last year and I’m glad I gave myself six months to figure it all out!

I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction the program would get so I was hesitant to request a kit from BreakoutEDU since they cost $125. My thinking was “Let’s do a test run and if anyone cares we can order this kit.”

Well…they cared!

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The interest was overwhelming! We did this the first week of August. We had it going for three days, four groups the first two days and then six groups the last one. I advertised the program for tweens and teens, but, as usual, people did not read the description and signed up some younger kids. But it all worked out.

Let me just say, designing this program from scratch was a challenge! If you want to do this for your library, crowd source! Email staff and ask for old lock boxes (with keys please), combination locks (with combination please!), diaries with keys, and any other trick item you could use as a puzzle. I asked my system and ended up with a nice collection and then some.

Also, you’re going to need to play test this so if you already have an established teen group or group that hangs out after school that you can lure into the meeting room for an afternoon of playing your game, DO IT. Also, have your staff do it. They will find all the flaws in our logic, the puzzles that were too easy, and the parts of the game that don’t quite flow. I did this and it was a life saver! I was able to tweak the program before my official day and it made the game a lot better and I already have ideas about how I will update it if I have another go round with this kit.

Though I have now put in an order for a BreakoutEDU kit so I might take the easy way out next time and download one of their programs!

Our theme was “The Mad Scientist” and I had a coworker make a video as the Mad Scientist and explain how he was hiding clues around the room that lead to his “treasure” (Hershey’s gold nuggets shhh).

I was sure to direct them to the first clue, a rebus on the chalk board, because otherwise they would just start wandering the room and it would throw off the flow of my puzzles.

I’ll see if you can figure out my rebus:

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I thought it was easy but quickly found out most teens are not familiar with the works of Stephen Hawking.

This lead to a hollowed out book (one girl exclaimed “OMG THEY CUT UP THE BOOK!” when she found it) with secret codes inside. This was another thing I would not do again or at least do more accurately. The little folder had holes in it and if you lined up the holes over the paragraph, you could find the clue. It is REALLY DIFFICULT to cut those holes out perfectly. I should have made a few of these but it took so long to get done, I ran out of steam. Just be aware if you try a cipher like this.

My one evil thing was hiding a key in the slime, which most of the kids were excited to look for though I heard a few “ew! gross!” as they stuck their hands in.

They key led to a lock box. The first go around I just had the box sitting out on the table and the kids were aware of it immediately, gesturing to it every time they passed the table. The second group, I casually laid a small strip of stickers over the lock and suddenly it was invisible! This amused me endlessly.

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Inside the lockbox was a photo of a little wooden brown box that a staff member gave me. It is a trick box and you just have to fiddle with it until you find where the secret compartment is. Inside that was the key to a diary, which was also just on a table, but I flipped it over so you couldn’t see the lock and just set a magnifying glass on top of it to obscure it.

This diary was from a dollar store, super cheap lock but it was So simple that people made it harder on themselves when trying to open it. I won’t lie, it took me several minutes to figure out how to trigger it and most of the teams struggled with it.

The diary had a little poem that gave them hints to the combination lock on the briefcase which was the final clue. It referred them to a calendar I had on the wall, but they didn’t need to check that to figure out the combo.

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I learned that next time I should go with more codes/ciphers and make sure that you really must solve the clues in order to get to the next one. I had a few too many things just lying around that were either too easy or too hard to spot.

But over all it went really well. They had 15 minutes to solve the puzzles and every group made it (though I had to throw a few hints at a few of them near the end). Everyone had a good time and parents were really happy because most of the Escape Rooms cost $25+ and are designed for adults so they loved being able to do this for free. We will be repeating the program as soon as the BreakoutEDU kit arrives!

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Library Program: Giant Size Candyland

WOW it has been awhile since I updated this blog! It’s been a busy year and I haven’t had a chance to share all of my success stories.

This is one I definitely want to shout about and encourage you to try at your library or community center or anywhere families need free activities.

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Giant Size Candyland!

Like all great library program ideas, I was inspired by Pinterest. One of the other libraries in our system also did the program but they have a backyard and could do it outside, a luxury my branch doesn’t have. BUT it did mean I was able to steal a lot of their props. Plan this program for November or January and find the person in your library system (there is always one!) who goes all out on their holiday decorations and has all the peppermint and gingerbread men decorations. Help them unpack early or encourage them to not put them away after the holidays.

Believe me, that’s how we got most of our supplies!

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The most time intensive part? Putting down the “squares” – I pretty much cleaned out our craft supply closet. All I did was use the good SCOTCH packing tape and tape them to the carpet. I was surprised how well they stood up to all the little feet walking on them for a few hours! I think I only had two that had to be replaced, but otherwise the kids tread lightly. But WOW it took awhile to get them all down on the floor – I think at least an hour, maybe two. We went around the meeting room, up the hallway and into the children’s area. Along the way we had lots of decorations and such that referred back to the game.

I printed out a color wheel spinner and just use brass brads and paper plates to create spinners. Then a very wise parent pointed out that we could just hand out the colored cards and have the kids randomly pick a card like they do in the games. BRILLIANT! Either way, everyone had fun.

We did the program on President’s Day because the kids were out of school and we knew families would be looking for something to do. We ran it for about two hours and it was busy the whole time. We had regular Candyland board games out for people to play while they waited for a free spinner/stack of cards or just to hang out. At the end, I used the sticker template provided one of the label companies to create round badges that said “I played Candyland at the Library 2017” so everyone got a sticker. I know some libraries like to hand out candy but with all the allergies and such out there, I didn’t want to do that. Everyone likes stickers.

This project was a lot of fun and while getting supplies together and creating the props took time, the day of the program was mostly just fun and watching everyone have a good time because everyone in the family could play Candyland since it is just about matching colors.

Here we are at the end of the day and we are still smiling!

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Up next: our home-made Escape Room!

Program inspiration: Art Workshops for Children

Just got this book at the library and it is filled with wonderful ideas that I really want to do yet know I can’t do because PAINT!

But I’m not going to give up. I think I can find some substitutes for the messy paint and perhaps just go with markers. Our meeting room/programming room is carpeted and getting it cleaned on a normal day is difficult so I can’t imagine what would happen if we got paint on it. I’m pretty sure our custodian would never forgive me.

Has anyone done an Art Workshop for kids at their library? I’m thinking this would require registration as it sounds like the kids will need lots of space to move around for some of these.

Posting this here so I can stumble upon it later and maybe plan a program for next year. 🙂

I got paid to Harry Potter today

Sorting hat #harrypotter #librarian #library

We had a “Science of Harry Potter” program this afternoon. I wasn’t in charge of it, my co-worker (who is far more hardcore into HP) was the planner. My involvement was today during the set-up and actual event.

The program was 2 hours long, though most people were there right at the start. We’re guessing we had over 150 people attend, maybe even 200. It was mass chaos when we opened the doors to the meeting room at 2pm because EVERYONE came right at 2pm and flooded the meeting room.

I ended up at the “sorting hat” table, which had a very short questionnaire for the kids to fill out and then I tallied the answers and told them what house they were sorted in to. This was so simple, something I know we have all done online many times, but OMG THEY LOVED IT! I guess because they are too young to hang out online and take these quizzes? I sorted entire families – kids dragged their parents over because they wanted to know which house they would be in. It was adorable.

We even had a few kids in Slytherin, which was hilarious. Usually it was little kids because, as we know, toddlers are evil.

Other tables included:

  • Herbology lessons — make a anti-nightmare sleep aid from a collection of herbs
  • Astronomy — make a star wheel
  • Enchanting — levitating tinsel on a balloon (which didn’t work well because the room was too humid and we couldn’t build up enough static)
  • Potions — invisible ink with lemon juice
  • Divination — tea leaves, palm reading, and tarot cards
  • Fantastic beasts — Owl origami
  • Hogwarts Library — scavenger hunt starting point, quizzes, and BOOKS!

HUGE HUGE hit, as anything with Harry Potter’s name attached to it usually is.

(I will poke my friend and see if she can post a proper blog about the program since it was her brainchild)

These kinds of family programs with brand names are always insane but so worth it.

Oh, and bonus, I posted the above photo on my tumblr and Library Journal reblogged it!  ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED!

And now I’m going to pass out because what a day!!!!


Photo credit: @aacpl