There are worse fates than being trapped at your local public library, especially when puzzles and games are involved.
Lincoln County Library created an escape room program where patrons were “locked” in and had to solve puzzles to get out. Inspired by a Pinterest post, Kellie Humphries, Youth Services Librarian for Lincoln County Library System, and Kera Wakefield Youth Services Aide at Kemmerer Branch Library, created the room and stocked it with challenging activities.
“Escape rooms are a ton of fun,” Humphries said. “There’s usually a simple story that explains why you are in the room and what you are accomplishing. If you like puzzles, logic games, and mystery books, you’d enjoy an escape room.”
The two librarians started the initial planning about this time last year and worked on it during breaks in their program schedule. They had some “make your own” puzzles left over from a summer reading program that became the main parts of their game.
“That sparked the idea that our room would be the library caretaker’s live-in apartment, and it would belong to our great uncle,” Humphries said. “He would send us there to retrieve a blue flash drive for him and bring it to the Kemmerer Airport with in the hour. But we’re locked in!”
The library got a good turnout for their first attempt at this type of program. During the week it ran, 36 kids (mostly teens) and 32 adults participated in 10 groups; eight of those groups completed the room.
Nine puzzles were each hidden in different places. Some were inside locked boxes with hidden keys and combinations to be figured out from clues around the room. A cryptex (like in The DaVinci Code) required a five-letter letter word to unlock. Even artwork on the walls was part of the game. Although they did need a few “no touch” signs for items like the television that they didn’t want participants tearing down looking for clues. The library used Facebook to offer hints, even creating an account for the fictional uncle.
Patrons loved it, and all of them said they’d do it again. One posted on Facebook, “That was such a fun thing!” Another, Sheri Paulson, said, “The lock in was a blast! I would do it again. My big kids enjoyed it and I believe the younger kids with our group did, too.”
Humphries suggested that libraries who want to do an escape room get combination locks that can be reprogrammed so that they can be used in another escape room. It helps to find a volunteer to donate wood and build boxes. Having a story for the room helps in putting it together and deciding on what types of puzzles to include. She said next time she’d like to have a webcam in the room to see how they were doing.
Total cost for the room was $175, and most items can be reused the next time they run the program. “Kera and I had a blast planning and putting it together,” Humphries said. “We’re already planning the next one.”