Tag Archives: library programming

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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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. 🙂

Sam’s guide to Star Wars Reads Day @ Your Library #StarWarsReads

The official Star Wars Reads Day has come and gone for 2014, but hosting a Star Wars event at your library is always a sure-fire way to get tons of new visitors into your building. With unofficial days like May 4 (“May the 4th be with you”), the new Disney XD series “Rebels” on the small screen, and a new set of stories headed for the big screen in 2015, Star Wars’ popularity will not be going away any time soon.

The great thing about a Star Wars event is that it is for all ages. You will see entire families and they will travel from all over if you can get the publicity out there in your library’s paper calendar or online social sites.

First things first – go to the 501st Legion’s website and find out if you have a local garrison. Star Wars programs are huge hits when you can have these amazing costumed fans wandering around. They do not charge for their services (though they have never said no to the boxes of donuts and coffee I leave for them in the back room). With this in mind, you obviously want to avoid the end of October (Halloween and New York Comic Con) and July (San Diego Comic Con) and it might be wise to check to see if there are any other major Star Wars events coming up (like Celebration Anaheim, a huge Star Wars convention sure to attract many of these fans away from home).

Thank you to the 501st Legion Old Line Garrison for making #starwarsreads day a huge success!

Once you’ve found a date on your calendar, contact your local garrison and they will start looking for volunteers to help out. Because of how my library system works, I tend to contact them ASAP, sometimes six months in advance. This isn’t necessary but the more time they have to put it up on their forums, the more chance you have of getting a strong turnout.

Another thing worth searching for is a local R2-D2 Builders Club. I know Maryland has a very active group and I’ve had their members stop by with amazing R2-D2s that thrilled everyone in the library. If you can connect with one of these awesome people, I highly recommend it.

Star Wars Reads Day 2013

And one more random group to reach out to — collectors! I am a member of the DC Star Wars Collector’s Club and I was able to get one of our members to bring his collection into the library for the day. Club members have also donated items to be used for prizes. Teaming up with groups like these can add that extra special something to your program.

Star Wars Reads Day 2013

Next, look at your space and thing about your community. If you have a meeting room and feel like it will be a small turn out, you could have it in there. But each year I have held the event, we have had over 100 people stop by, and our meeting room capacity is 160. I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s fun by citing the Fire Code, so we have always held the event in the Children’s area of the library proper. Yes, it’s loud and crazy but it means that everyone can have a good time and have plenty of space.  And it gives the added bonus of people stumbling upon the event by chance and calling friends to visit. My program usually goes 2-3 hours, so plenty of time for people to show up.

Also keep in mind that people will want to get photographs with any droids or costumers that are there so think of a spot that would work well as a staging area. You can direct the 501st members to that spot and have your patrons form a line.

Now the part that you really need to plan out! Like I mentioned, you are going to have fans of ALL AGES attending your event. We’ve had everything from 30 – 300+ people so keep those crafts SIMPLE but fun.

A sure fire hit (and a book tie-in!) is Origami Yoda and the Fortune Wookiee. Author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda Tom Angleberger uploaded instructions to his blog to help young folders: The Simple 5-Fold Yoda and the pattern for the Fortune Wookiee. (I do recommend doing a few practice ones yourself so you’re ready to help the kids if they get stuck).

Another favorite (and easy) craft is to let the kids color a stormtrooper helmet, cut out the helmet, and then tape it to a stick, creating their own mask.  When I set up for this craft, my instructional poster includes photos of different variations of Star Wars stormtrooper cosplayers, to highlight that they can be more than just white helmets.

Star Wars Reads Day 2013

LEGO is always a hit with any age so the blank LEGO Minifigure coloring sheet works well here too. Again, when I make the poster with the instructions for the craft, I have a bunch of images of Star Wars Lego minifigures to help inspire.

Star Wars Reads Day 2013

There are lots of activity and coloring sheets in the Star Wars Reads Day packet. If you do decide to take part in this event, definitely register for the email list so you can find out about publisher giveaways. Posters and stickers can make for great prizes.

This year I did a scavenger hunt/raffle where the children had to follow hints around the library, finding a secret letter at each location to spell out the name of the planet where the Rebel base was located. I used these slips as a raffle for prizes, awarded the following week.  I had the contestants write down their name, age, and phone number so I could be sure to pick out appropriate prizes.

I also created a 10 question Trivia Challenge, also asking entrants for their name, age, and phone number. It had some tricky questions, but I had 5 people who managed to get most of them correct so they got nice prize packs as well – a mix of Star Wars items and library items.

It makes for a very busy, non-stop few hours, but it is a whole lot of fun.  I stay on my feet the entire time, checking on my special guests and checking on my patrons (and usually photocopying more of the crafts as things get low).

#swrd #starwarsreadsday #library

Please feel free to comment if you have any questions about this program. It really is one of my favorite events (even if I pass out afterwards).