Banner image for Compendium: News from Commonwealth Libraries with photo of Office of Commonselath Libraries building

PA Forward: Don’t Panic, Break out!

Susan Sentz
Susan Sentz

By: Susan Sentz

Many communities have seen escape rooms pop up as a new recreational activity. The premise is pretty simple; find the clues, decipher the puzzles, and break out of the room. With the popularity of escape rooms, many libraries have begun putting them on for their patrons.

There are a few different ways you can put on your own escape room at your library. There is the option of creating your own room with clues and puzzles. This gives your library more freedom with the theme and how the game is run. You can even make your program fandom based as Upper Dublin Public Library is creating with “Harry Potter Breakout Box”. This program is a take on escape rooms but in this case they must utilize their Harry Potter knowledge to break into Gringott’s gold. Another way to create a room is to partner with a local escape room business to help plan out your program in the library. This is a great opportunity for your library to participate in outreach with local businesses.

Your library may also procure a kit to run your escape room. The kit that seems most widely used is from Breakout Edu. These kits usually start at $80.00 depending on what you include. The great thing about the Breakout Edu kit is that it is a one-time fee for the items which can be used multiple ways for different escape room programs.

Teen EscapeThe Northampton Area Public Library recently put on two escape room programs for teens and for adults.

Northampton went the route of utilizing a kit from Breakout Edu to put on the programs. Breakout Edu is a great resource if you are just getting into escape rooms and not sure where to start. If your library purchases the kit you receive many different locks, boxes, and supplies to be used in the program. The best part of Breakout Edu is their open-source games to use for your program. These games provide step by step instructions and a video to help facilitators understand how the game should be run. There is a multitude of games to choose from for ages from elementary to adult. Breakout Edu also provides guidance on how to design your own room through their template. With Breakout Edu, the library can run many different themed escape room programs for different age groups all with the same kit.

For the adult escape room we held at Northampton Area Public Library, the theme was that the group was trapped in time and they had to figure out the clues to get back to the future. The largest undertaking was making sure I understood how all of the clues worked in order to fully understand how the escape room would run. Preparation for the program includes setting the locks, printing the clues, and setting up the room. Room setup involved hiding clues, decorating and making sure everything was accessible. Outside of the designated escape room, before the program began, I explained the rules to the patrons including the time limit, that clues may be hidden, that they were allowed one hint and which areas were off limits. After that, the program runs itself in that patrons play the game with minimal guidance from the facilitator.

From running the program at Northampton I have found a few helpful observations along the way to help future programs run smoothly.

  • Limit your participants or run multiple sessions back to back.  I recommend ten people as a manageable amount per session. If the groups become too large there is not enough for everyone to do.
  • Try the game out on a colleague, friend, or family member first. This can help make sure there are no game glitches, the time limit works and you will learn how much instruction is needed.
  • Last, sit back and let them play. Try to not get too involved, it’s about the players figuring out the clues.

Both the teen and adult groups had a blast and are ready for the next escape room held at the library!

For more ideas on how to promote the PA Forward Literacies in your library, visit the PA Forward Commons and be sure to add your programs to the database by completing the PA Forward Commons Submission Form!

Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , ,