Thursday, September 1, 2016

Library GrabBag: Escape Room

We're always on the lookout for fun after hours activities.  Our teens love them.  Our teens don't fully understand the amount of time and money that goes into after hours programming, but they are constantly begging us for more.  Generally we do two a semester, and we try to mix it up as often as possible so that we're still having fun as well.

When we saw a posting from the North Madison County Public Library system on one of our state listservs about an Escape Room, we knew we had to try one out for ourselves.  A HUGE thank you to North Madison for sharing their puzzles and clues with us!!  We used what they sent us as inspiration for an evening of fun that fit our building and teens.  [And the brains behind our operation was Miss Jessica over at Book Plots & Polka Dots - if I haven't said it lately, she's kind of awesome!]

The Plan

Tentative Timetable

5pm - 5:15 : Introduction/general after-hours expectations
5:15 - 5:30 : Escape room plan and lowdown
5:30 - 6:15 : Game 1
6:15 - 6:45 : Pizza!
6:45- 7:15 : Game 2
7:15 - 8pm : Sardines


24 teens registered for the event, so we split them into (4) groups of (6).  Our building is two stories, so we simultaneous had (2) games going on upstairs and (2) games going on downstairs.  When each team had successfully completed their first game, we took a break for dinner (pizza!) and then started round two.  The teams that were upstairs moved downstairs and vice versa.

There were (4) very similar games with different book themes

Game 1) The Hobbit
Game 2) Harry Potter
Game 3) Percy Jackson
Game 4) Alice in Wonderland

All teams started at the same time in the same room and were handed a puzzle.  The puzzle was a book cover that they had to put together, and on the back of the picture was a page number in the book to find their first clue.

A sample game:

The goal of the game was to be the first to find their prize box and successfully open the lock inside.  Each clue they received also included a letter.  The letters had to be unscrambled to unlock the lock (a word based lock).  Each word had something specific to do with the book theme for each game. [Hobbit - "MISTY", Percy - "TITAN", Alice - "WEIRD", and Harry - "SPELL"]  The box held a ticket that they would give to the hosts and who would jot down their stop time.

Puzzle 1) Hobbit book cover - pg# 70
(Teams were told in advance if they were supposed to be upstairs or downstairs.  Upstairs is the reference department and downstairs is Kids and Teens.  Some of the books could be found in multiple locations.)

Clue 1) (riddle found on pg 70) "A box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid." Find another instance of the answer
(A plastic Easter egg was hidden on the second floor.  They had to find the egg which held the second puzzle.)

Puzzle 2) (inside the egg) Strips of paper with characteristics of Smaug were in the egg. (Ex: His arMor is like ten fold shields and The king under the moUntain) Within the characteristics S M A U and G were underlined.  The letters were unscrambled to make Smaug, and the teens were asked to "find another instance of me in the library."
(A stuffed dragon was hidden with the next clue in his mouth.)

Clue 2) "Find the best view of Middle-Earth.  There you will either find the next puzzle or end up "unlucky".
(Clue led to our Lucky Day collection.)

Puzzle 3) Image matching - what immage do you see on both the picture (a Where's Waldo page) and on the shelf? (White Wizard in Waldo photo and Wizard book on Lucky Day shelf)
(Clue 3 hidden inside the Wizard book)

Clue 3) Click here for clue 3
Puzzle 4) Teens were challenged with translating the Hebrew word to find the next puzzle  - translates as "Audiobook"
(They could use the card catalog to find a Hebrew dictionary)

Clue 4) Decoded message leads to The Hobbit audiobook with a Sudoku puzzle inside
(Teams had to successfully complete the Sudoku game to find the highlighted numbers]

Puzzle 5) Sudoku challenge  - the highlighted numbers were a dewey decimal number

Clue 5) The dewey number led to the hidden box (812.67)
(The box was hidden around the 812's)

Each team was given three "Ask a Librarian" tickets for the entire evening.  When they got stuck, we would give them a hint to get them going again.  Each team ended up using at least one.

So how did it go...

It went really well.  Everyone had a lot of fun, they got to practice working as a part of a team, we tossed in some practical library skills, and there was A LOT of laughter.


We learned that teenagers have trouble with problem solving, puzzle completing, and staying on task.   During the planning stages, we were afraid that it was too easy and that they would complete each game in about twenty minutes.  The first game took an hour and a half.

We were pleasantly surprised, however, that the second game only took 45 minutes.  I'll admit it.  We got the warm and fuzzier knowing they had learned something and caught on to the way the game should be played.

While the initial brainstorming took some effort, there was relatively no clean up since there was little to actually set out for each game.  The team with the fastest time of both games got a candy prize, so between the pizza and the prizes, the night only cost $50 or about $2 per teen.

We're already working on ways to adapt the game and hopefully expand it to our adults.  We've even thought about hosting it for staff as a "bonding" activity.

If you wan more information, let me know!


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