Escape Room in the Library

Escape the library! You and your team will have 15 minutes to solve a series of riddles, decipher the clues, and find the key to escape! Do you have the brainpower and teamwork skills needed to win? Recommended for adults, teens, and older children.

When? International Games Day, November 21 2015 @1-4pm

Where? The Meeting Room in the Forest Heights Branch of Kitchener Public Library

Why? To promote critical thinking skills, teamwork, a sense of adventure, awareness of local businesses, and ultimately to build community.

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What? Groups of 2 or more people enter the Escape Room together. They are told a quick story setting up their escape: they were studying for an exam in the library when their friends locked them in. Now they have 15 minutes to figure out how to escape – or else they’ll be late for their exam! The countdown begins, and they are left alone in the room to explore and escape.

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They begin seated at a table scattered with library materials. A projected image on the wall cycles through 3 slides with photo clues. In the corner of the room a red treasure chest sits, chained up with a lock. On the wall a wooden cabinet is also roped off with a lock. A book shelf with various children’s books and magazines sits against the wall. They can slide a question mark card under the door for a clue.

Escape involves a black light and invisible ink, deciphering several riddles to discover the combinations for the locks, and riffling through the pages of a few books. Once you find the final key you burst out of the room, and take a celebratory team photo. Basically, everyone who escaped felt like a genius spy.

Every team escaped the room with times ranging from 4:30 to 14:30. Gr8 Escape says that in their full-version rooms only about 25% of the teams manage to escape. This event was developed to be difficult, but doable by everyone.

How? I contacted a new local Escape Room, Gr8 Escape Kitchener, and asked if they would be interested in developing a mini version of their escape rooms for International Game Day. They were amazing to work with, and extremely enthusiastic partners. To them – this was effective promotion for their business. To the library – this was one of my most successful free programs. In 3 hours, 52 people went through the room.

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Challenges? The main challenge was the number of people who wanted to use the room. I set up a “registration table” and created a simple waiting list: name, number in group, and difficulty level. We explained that this was a first-come-first-served event, and provided estimated waiting times. The group who waited the longest waited for 1 hour, but happily played games from our board game collection in the meantime.

We also accommodated multiple age ranges with 3 difficulty levels. The main puzzle, a photo clue, had three separate options (easy, medium, and hard) that could easily be switched to match the difficulty before the group entered.

We receive a lot of positive feedback from this program – from our partners, attendees, and other libraries inspired by the idea. I look forward to running events with Gr8 Escape again – ideal March Break programming, am I right? And I definitely encourage other libraries to team up with local escape rooms OR to develop their own!

Check out my interview in American Libraries magazine for more information on this program. Feel free to contact me if via a comment below if you have any questions about this program.

13 thoughts on “Escape Room in the Library

  1. Karissa, this is awesome! We had an Escape the Room open right down the street from us yesterday, and I am working on contacting them to partner with us for a possible teen program. I’m wondering how you approached the Escape the Room? How did you go about asking them to partner with you? And did they charge you a fee for partnering? Thanks for your input, and amazing work!

    1. That’s awesome! If they are a new business they might be more open to outreach opportunities. I went and did the escape room with 3 friends and afterwards chatted with the owner and took a card. The next week I emailed them with a proposal and they were very excited to be part of it. They did it for free.

  2. This is fantastic! I am the director for our Comic Con event at our library and I am wanting to do an escape room at our next con. Can you send me your contact information so I can get some suggestions from you? Thanks!

  3. This sounds like something the students in my high school would enjoy. I have never done an escape room game before so any help you could give me to get one set up for our school would be appreciated.

  4. I am an Elementary School librarian. This is a great idea. If you have any plots or clues you could share, I would love to have them as well. Two heads are better than one.

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