Tag Archives: 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!

Special Event: My Little Pony Party

I don’t know what I was thinking when I scheduled these past few months of my life.  I bought a house, moved into the house, got married on top of working AND then decided I should do an Angry Birds program, Star Wars Reads Day, and My Little Pony Party on top of all the other things.  So, needless to say, I didn’t do as much for these events as I wanted to but the attendees didn’t know that and they had a blast so yay for that!

Today was the My Little Pony Party.  I scheduled it for a day our schools had an early dismissal because of a teacher in-service so it wasn’t connected to a holiday or anything, the kids just got out early and needed someplace to go.  I made sure to REMIND parents of this anytime they mentioned the program’s 2pm start time.

I advertised the program for ages 5 and up and made sure to mention that it was for both bronies and pegasisters so everyone felt welcome.

It worked!  We had a great turn out, around 50 kids, and the age range was a lot of early elementary.  They all loved it!

Crafts included:

Make yourself as a pony (blank pony coloring sheet with crayons)
Make a pony bookmark (corner bookmarks + one of these ponies glued on top)
Make a “cupcake” (accu-cut cupcakes with some tissue paper for “extra frosting”)
Make a unicorn horn (found here)

(I have a Pinterest board full of brainstorming, if you’re curious)

And, of course, a Scavenger Hunt because I love sending the kids into the library and they seem to love it too.  I gave them a gem at the end because they were searching for Spike.

Here are a few photos of the cuteness.  BRACE YOURSELF:

Sugarcube Corner cupcake making was a bigger hit than I expected! Lots of fancy cupcakes, wish they had all been real! Would love to team up with a local bakery next time, maybe we could have a cake decorating class for kids.
Unicorn horns were a HUGE hit, though I miscalculated how much ribbon it would take to tie them to 50 little heads.
The entire back half of the meeting room was COVERED in glitter but it was worth it. The kids loved decorating their horns with glitter and shiny paper. I only wish I had more sturdy paper, basic cardstock barely cut it, especially if they slopped a lot of glue on it.
This guy had a blast! He was probably the oldest kid there but he had so much fun creating his very own pony (complete with game controller cutie mark and xbox headset) and a horn to match.

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

fun with iMovie – before after library remodel video

My library will reopen to the public tomorrow after a MONTH of interior remodeling. It has been a wild and crazy experience being a part of this process. We had many days of laughter, grumbling, some interesting fumes and lots and LOTS of donuts!

Anyway, to kill time on Friday as we waiting to be trained on some new equipment, I threw together a quick Before/After video that **hopefully** we can run on our 40″ TV we have set up in our lobby area now to help patrons visualize what we used to look like just a few weeks ago. It was quite an impressive change, physically and also mentally because the flow of the entire building has been overhauled. It will be confusing for awhile, but I think it turned out well.

If you are curious, here is the video!

Toddler Time #1

We’ve started doing Toddler Time programs at our library as part of our Early Literacy Initiative. We’ve never done programs specifically for this age group and the turn out has been crazy. Toddlers are 18-36 months and when you get 57 of them in a room, things get a little wild. At least I was mentally prepared as we started doing them earlier this month and I knew the numbers would be large.

I figured the best thing to do with a group that size was to keep them focused on me as much as I could using songs and rhymes and other active things.

Early Literacy Tip #1 — Singing, doing rhymes together, and making animal noises slows down your speech so children can hear the smaller parts of words. This is part of phonological awareness and it will help the child later when they are learning to sound out words.

Before the kids came into the room, I made sure I had my puppet ready!

This helped to get their attention on me as he waved to everyone who came in. I’ve decided I really like puppets with arms I can move! Once it felt like we had everyone in the room, I showed the kids that when Wavy claps there is no sound! Then I asked them to clap so I could hear them. Then we sang the “Clap Your Hands” song, which I think was originally on a Wee Sing album but I know it by heart now so I just sing it on my own.

The we did the classic “Open, Shut Them” to get everyone sitting down and facing forward.

After everyone was seated, I did my early literacy tip for the parents. Then to keep it all going, I asked the kids to bring out their SPIDERS. We did Itsy Bitsy Spider and his cousin, Great Big Spider (I just have the kids hold their arms out for this one).

Since they were doing so well seated, I did a really quick book, Peek-A-Moo by Marie Torres Cimarusti. This is one of my go-to books for younger crowds. I asked the kids if they knew their barnyard animals and also how to play peek-a-boo. This book had both the kids and the parents involved.

I could feel the wiggles starting to come back so then I did “Head to Toe” by Eric Carle but I think the concept of moving like an animal may have been too much for the younger end of this crowd and I could feel myself starting to lose them. I sorta rushed the last half the book to get through it so we could move on.

Since they were up and ready to go, I went to my old stand-by of “Jumping and Counting” by Jim Gill. Hardest part here is counting as slow as the kid on the CD! I do a big arms, Pete-Townsend-playing-guitar style counting to help slow down the counting with the actual kids in the room with me.

Best thing about this song? It ends with Gill saying “and you can jump right back down into your seats” so now that we are sitting again, we can try a book. I read “Waking Dragons” which is really short and colorful and the few kids up front were fine but with a room full of 57 kids, its too hard to do a real book so once that was over, it was time for another activity.

Thank goodness for Microsoft Word! The day before I had found a cute Dragon clipart and used it to create a “Five Little Dragons” flannel board.

I used the rhyme on Nancy Stewart’s website but I changed the ending and had Mother dragon roar “I’m going to eat your snack” because that is the sort of thing my mom would have said to make me come back haha.

Then we did “Going on a Dragon Hunt” which is just “Going on a bear hunt” but with more dragons. 🙂

And for their take-home craft, I printed out black and white versions of the Little Dragons and Mother Dragon and added the text of the rhyme for everyone to take home and make their own 5 Little Dragons story.

And now I need a nap!!!

This felt like something librarians should discuss…

This seems like it should be a call to arms for librarians! You can archive the Internet all you want, but who will organize that archive? Is the Internet worth archiving — in my opinion, yes. Mostly because we never think NOW is important, but later we will want to look back, for nostalgia or research. It’s already becoming harder to look back with things like computers and video games as you have to have older consoles/machines to run the games made at that time. Books and artworks that were made physically are not tied to a model number of a processor so we can look at them if they are 5, 50, or 500 years old and say “hey, there it is”. But I just went to the Wayback Machine and tried to find my old Geocities site (stop laughing) and it is, as Mike said, a shell of a site with broken images and the index page was never archived.

I got paid to blog!

I had my first official blog post published on the library’s website last week. It’s all about The Beatles and the library and, of course, me! LOL. 😀

And, bonus, it was picked up by our local newspapers and reposted on their websites. I feel so famous. It’s the little things in life you gotta grab on to, ya know.

And the post begins to answer the question that is the name of this blog so you should probably read it and know me better.

EDIT: Copy+pasting text of the blog here because it seems to have disappeared from the main website!

This month marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. We will be celebrating their musical legacy at the Severna Park Community Library on Saturday, February 15 at 11 am with crafts, trivia, and, of course, Beatles Rock Band. This is an all-ages event, meant to bring families together for a few hours of rock and roll fun.

The Beatles mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For me, they turned out to be not only a musical obsession, but also a gateway into my career as a librarian.

I discovered The Beatles in the early 1990s, when the Anthology aired on television. The documentary piqued my interest in this group of four lads from Liverpool, England. I had heard many of their songs in commercials and covered by other bands. My parents had a couple of Beatles records in their collection, but I wanted to hear everything. Where did I go to find their music, in this time before YouTube and iTunes?

You guessed it – I walked over to the Maryland City at Russett Community Library and began to dig through their CD cabinet. After I had learned all the songs by heart, I ventured into the non-fiction collection and checked out every single book about the Fab Four. I learned to use the new online catalog and requested materials from other branches.  

Then I hit a wall. Several of the books mentioned that John Lennon had written a book back in the 1960s but I couldn’t find it in the catalog. It took a lot of courage for this shy pre-teen to walk up to the Information Desk and ask if it was possible to get a copy of the book. To my amazement, the librarian didn’t scoff or tut at my obsession. She went to a special computer and began searching. A few weeks later, I was able to check out a copy of “A Spaniard in the Works” by John Lennon, published in 1965. I examined it from cover to cover and that was when I saw the barcode on the back from the lending library – it had come from a university in California.

I couldn’t believe it. The librarian had requested this book for me from a library all the way across the country. A whole new world opened up to me. I was in the library all the time, chatting with the staff, finding new things to research. (The Beatles were also a slippery slope into Rock and Roll history, which eventually led me to English and American history). I volunteered at the library over the summer and when I was old enough, I interviewed for a Page position, putting books away for most of high school and through college. After a brief stint working at a radio station in Annapolis, I realized that while I loved music, my true passion was information and getting the right items to help people learn about the things that interested them. I quickly made my way back to the library.

Which is why it seems only fitting that I host a program at my library to celebrate the music and the story of The Beatles. Who knows? Maybe this program will bring someone into the library who has never visited before, someone whose interest in The Beatles will introduce them to all the public library has to offer.

Getting kids reading with comics

"Adventures of Superhero Girl" by Faith Erin Hicks #summerreading #comics Another book I am very excited to read just arrived on my desk :) Appropriate break #reading? Too soon?

Over the summer we had a reporter come into my library to interview me and my friend Andy about comic books and kids and reading. My theory is that he thought we would be stereotypical librarians and wrinkle our noses at the popular format. And I think we surprised him by our enthusiasm for comics and knowledge of graphic novels:

Getting Kids Reading Through Comics

I think for many librarians and teachers that work with reluctant readers, comic books are a powerful tool. For adults who somehow managed to go their entire childhood without touching a comic book, though, the assumption is that they are all either Archie adventures or men in tights. The truth is that this is a powerful format that now features published books in just as many genres as a “normal” book.