Using a DIY Escape Room Kit

One of our most popular teen programs this summer has been Escape the Library!, an escape room-style event. I have hosted four so far and still have two to go. This event took a lot of planning. I wasn’t sure I could come up with a good story, nor did I have the time to invest in creating puzzles. I looked at Breakout EDU, but it was a little out of our price range for this fiscal year. Luckily, I found Lock, Paper, Scissors (formerly known as Heist Party).

Lock, Paper, Scissors is a business that creates DIY escape room kits. For $20, I was able to purchase a kit that I can use over and over again. There are four kits to choose from. I selected Escape Room Z, which involves zombies trying to steal your pizza. Once you purchase a kit, you gain access to a file with everything you need to print the game at home. The file includes all of the clues, posters, and a Publisher file that allows you to edit the game.

Once printed, I had a little difficulty figuring out the set-up but Lock, Paper, Scissors provides a handy YouTube tutorial that walked me through it.  For our programs I used some real props to make the game more interesting and to make it seem more like an actual escape room, rather than our library meeting room. I recommend making a map of where you’ve hidden the clues, because I found myself forgetting a couple of times. Also, try a practice run with some staff members before your actual event.

The game was a little difficult for our teens, but they still managed to solve the puzzles and escape within about 30 minutes (with LOTS of hints). Escape Room Z is recommended for groups of 4 -6 players. We’ve been averaging about 15 teens per event. To accommodate all of the teens, I printed off multiple copies of the game and color-coded the clues. The teens were then divided up into teams by color and then all played simultaneously to see who could finish first. The team play went smoothly, but it’s a good idea to try and have a “hint master” per team. After all teams “escaped”, the teens were allowed to shoot the zombies with toy dart guns. This was their favorite part. We served pizza, but I think they even enjoyed shooting the zombies more than the pizza.

Overall, I think the DIY kits from Lock, Paper, Scissors are an easy and affordable way to host an escape room event at your library.


Squirt Gun Painting

My after-school crowd has been clamoring to do more art-related programs. I have many artist pals, but their talents have yet to rub off on me. As a result, art programs aren’t really my forte but I try to give the teens what they want (within reason). One of our branch locations hosted a squirt gun painting program, which sounded like a fun event that I could pull off without needing any amazing artistic abilities. It turned out awesome! One of the teens told me it was the best library activity ever and the paintings were gorgeous. Check them out in the slideshow below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here’s what you’ll need if you want to host your own squirt gun painting event:

  • Squirt guns (the cheap ones worked okay, but a few did bust and leak)
  • Liquid watercolors (you could also mix tempera paint and water)
  • Canvases
  • Gloves
  • Smocks
  • An outdoor space to host the event

You will need to lay down the ground rules with the teens right away . For me, that was no squirting each other or pointing guns at each other. Our event went smoothly, but there’s always room for improvement. I didn’t think to label the paint colors on the squirt guns which would have been very helpful. I would also recommend planning an activity for the teens to do while they wait for their paintings to dry. Overall, this was an excellent event that gave our teens a unique creative outlet.

Teen Read Week – Matching Game

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted about teen services. I took a brief sabbatical from the realm of public libraries to work for a vendor, but now I’m back where I belong! To kick off my new-ish job, I’ve been tasked with running our teen booth at the local book festival. The festival happens to coincide with Teen Read Week, so we’re using Get Away @ Your Library as the theme. For activities, we are going to play Pin the Glasses on John Green (thanks to Sarah Amazing!) and I’ve created the matching game below.


Feel free to use this game at your own library. You can download it as a PDF here.

Paperback Wallet Craft

Paperback Wallet CraftMy regular teens seem to really enjoy destroying old books when we do crafts. My most popular crafternoon to date was a hollowed book. I guess it seems taboo to them, being in the library and all. Since they love cutting up books so much, I’ve been trying to think of a new upcycle craft for them. Before I took over teen programs, I made a paperback wallet for a friend for their birthday and he loved it. It seems like the perfect project for our teens. I tweaked the process a little to incorporate another teen favorite (duct tape) and to simplify it.

Supply Costs:

Paperbacks – $0, I plan to use recently weeded items.

Duct tape – $0, still have lots on hand from another crafternoon.

Contact paper – $0, the PR Manager had some lying around (way to go, Julie!)

Adhesive Velcro – $0, more leftovers.

Scissors – $0, a library programmer’s pantry necessity.

Pens – $0, we’re going use some from the stockpile of promotional pens.

Total Supply Costs: $0!!!! My favorite kind of craft is the craft that uses up all my leftover supplies (the director loves that, too). If I had to guestimate the cost of supplies if you don’t have leftovers, I would say $20-30 for approximately 10 teens. Just depends on where you shop and the brands you purchase (tip: always go off-brand).

Total Craft Time: 30-45 minutes.

Here are the Paperback Wallet instructions.

Awesome Readers’ Club – The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks


For this month’s ARC, we’re reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. I basically forced this book upon them because I love it. Actually, I’ve liked almost all of E. Lockhart’s books (I wasn’t wild about  Fly on the Wall or Dramarama, but loved all of the Ruby Oliver books and I’m really looking forward to We Were Liars). In addition to discussion, I’m going to give the teens special mustaches to place on their favorite books throughout the stacks (kind of a little prank of our own because it will confuse any other patron that picks the book up).

Here are the discussions questions to go with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, which I got from Hyperion Discussion GuideThe questions may contain spoilers, so reader beware.  

  1. Frankie undergoes both a physical and an emotional transformation in the book. Why do you think people only recognize one of them? Is it difficult for women who are beautiful to be taken seriously? Why?
  2. How does Frankie first meet Alpha? Why doesn’t he acknowledge their chance encounter? Matthew, too, has no memory of having met Frankie. How does this make her feel? Would you ave handled this situation similarly, or not? Why?
  3. Why do you think the author chose a boarding school as the setting for the novel “that patriarchal establishment, the insular, over-privileged life”? How does the setting add to the conflicts and development of Frankie’s story? What is the most interesting thing about Alabaster?
  4. Discuss Frankie’s romance with Porter. Do you think this contributed to what happens with Matthew?
  5. Frankie gains not only a boyfriend but a whole posse of charming boys to hang out with, too. Why is this group so much fun for her to hang around with? Why does she find it a bit scary to invest so much of her energy into this group?
  6. Frankie learns about the theory of a panopticon in her favorite class. Do you agree with the theory that most people behave because they have this sense of being monitored? Do you think this sense prevails in modern life even more than in previous times? How? Why? Does it influence your own behavior? How?
  7. Why do you think secret societies exist at all? What does Frankie learn about the Bassets as the novel progresses? Why do you think she’s unable to just let it go?
  8. Frankie weighs everything before she says it and considers her options before she speaks. Are you able to do this? Do you wish you could? Do you think most people consider their words before speaking? Are you clever or funny like Frankie? How do people develop wit?
  9. Over the course of the novel Frankie seems to get more and more angry about how other people perceive her. She’s tired of pretending to be just one thing. Have you ever felt this rage against expectations? What did you do about it? What does Frankie do?
  10. Which of the pranks did you find the most compelling? Have you ever been a prankster? What does Frankie learn about herself as she plans and executes the pranks? How does it change everyone’s perception of her?
  11. Frankie also rails against the unwritten codes of her school, such as who gets to sit at the senior table. What are the unwritten codes and rules at your own school? Has anyone ever tried to defy them? What were the consequences?
  12. Describe Frankie’s romance with Matthew. Who would you say is in control of the relationship? Why? How does it end between them? Do you think Matthew is justified in his feelings? Do you think he was ever really in love with Frankie to begin with? Why?
  13. Frankie wants Matthew to “. . . admire her cleverness, her ambition, her vision. That he would admit her as his equal, or even as his superior, and love her for what she was capable of.” Do you think this is even possible in teen relationships? Is it possible in life? How many marriages that you know operate under this banner?
  14. How do the others react when they learn she was the mastermind behind the pranks? Why were they it considered “brilliant” when the Bassets thought Alpha was in charge, but “psychotic” when Frankie is revealed as the perpetrator?
  15. In the end, Frankie concludes, “It is better to be alone, than to be with someone who can’t see who you are.” Do you agree with her? Do your friends and romantic partners see who you really are or only who they expect and want you to be? What don’t you reveal to your friends and family? Do you think men or women share their true selves more with others? Why?