Teen Tech Week 2016: Escape the Library!

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March 15, 2016 by Andrea

So after (successfully) completing Escape the Room adventures with my friends in family in Milawukee and Philadelphia, I just knew this was a program that would work with teens in the Library. I scheduled it and thought, eh worry about the details later….

…well, flash forward to the weeks before the event and needing to plan the details. Somewhat intimidating, somewhat fun, and defintely a brain excercise. I started by listing different types of locks, lockboxes, lockable pouches, lockable doors and ideas for clues. For instance, I found a black light in a closet downstairs and knew that would work great. Then I made, in true to form of how my “creative” brain works, a flow chart that detail which clue led to what key/lock/next hint.


I swear it makes sense to me.

I promoted the event at our middle school’s lunches which definitely got some buzz out there. I had a lot of kids sign up and especially groups of friends wanting to do it. I tried to cap it at ten participants but as of the day of we had 14 signed up, with 12 showing up that night.

I used our large programming space and basically sectioned off half of it using black tablecloths I got for cheap on Amazon. I also covered closets that weren’t part of the game. This system allowed me to still be able to keep an eye on what was happening in the room. I locked the entrance doors using three locks, but the room was still accessible via a kitchen entrance. We also have a small closet that they needed to unlock. We used extra furniture and desks to hold the clues and hide keys. At the last minute we decided to add extra decoy items like old books, DVDs and a fan (almost all three would come to haunt the kids in the end, muahah).


We started in a side conference room where we discussed the rule….1. Don’t be a jerk, we all need to work together so any rudeness will not be tolerated and you will be kicked out of the game. 2) Please pretend the black tablecloths are walls, there are no clues with them. There are no clues in the ceiling, do not try to crawl out. Do not touch the thermostat or punch the walls. 3) I tried to stress teamwork and communication. We had four girls and the rest boys, all pretty much in sixth grade so communicating was not a strength. 4) They could group ask me for three clues throughout the game.

I led them into the room and half turned on the lights and then let ’em at it. One kid turned on the lights and then the rest yelled at him to turn them off….no one knows why….haha but they just made up a self-inflicted rule. They also totally went nutso on the books and DVDs, all swearing their book was the key clue. They also all fixated on Abraham Lincoln and his assasination date as a code (It was not….they literally spent the first twenty minutes yelling about Lincoln). Finally, one boy found the key to the closet taped to the bottom of a book cart, which got them a taped up poster and a lockbox.  The code to the lockbox was on a “Staff Meeting Notes 6/23) folder which they spent minutes looking through the junk papers in the folder and not the handwritten 623 which unlocked the box.

Issues we ran into:

  • In trying to put together the blacklight, the boys pretty much destroyed it….It worked before they entered the room and even with an adult helping them put the batteries and the cover back together, it wouldn’t work. So I just adlibbed and wrote over the blacklight ink with pen.
  • They strugggggggled with the final combination lock. I think because they were so eager to put in the code, they were pulling it too hard? But it was frustrating for them (and me) that they had the right numbers but couldn’t get it.
  • The decoys REALLY decoyed them….haha. They spent so much time on all the books and DVDs so if I did it again, I would limit how many of those decoy items we had.
  • And speaking of decoy items, we also had a fan as just another object in the room…..which then led the teens to wanting to plug the fan in, which blew all the papers around and the table cloth walls…..not a huge deal, but not something we thought ahead about.

Would I do it again?

  • Yes! Absolutely. It was easy cost wise and with our room set up, just a little brain activity in terms of planning the escape. It was also my first Friday evening program which I think was really great for this group of kids to have a social event to go to.

And the final photo…..the AFTER shot:



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Me! My name is Andrea and I'm a Children's Librarian in the Philadelphia area.
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