Friday, June 22, 2018

14 Ways Libraries Can Help Immigrant Children and Families

The news around immigration to the US is heart breaking right now. If you find yourself wanting to do something, but are not sure what, here are a few suggestions curated mostly from a post in Library Think Tank.

Collection Displays

  • Create a display related to Migration and Refugees to help inform patrons of why people are coming here.
  • Display Central American Literature.
  • Display books connected to epigenetics, showing how trauma can be passed down through subsequent generations.
  • Always display books that include POC kids. When book talking, always talk them up and get them into kids' hands to grow empathy.

Information Displays

  • Provide sanctuary locations and qualifications.
  • Display information on immigration and legal rights/citizenship/etc. Include this information in multiple languages! Print out Know Your Rights cards in multiple languages.
  • Highlight (or start) your collection on ESL Learning Materials, citizenship exam study books, and information on becoming citizens.
  • Curate useful websites for your patrons: Informed Immigrant, Immi, and more. Check out Libraries Serve Refugees for great and local resources! 


  • ‘I’m a Migrant, Ask Me Anything’ Program
  • Invite authors to speak, like Reyna Grande (The Distance Between Us) and Luis Alberto Urrea (The Devil's Highway: A True Story). Offer programs in both English and Spanish!
  • Invite an immigration lawyer or a local nonprofit immigration service to give a talk.
  • Movie screenings about immigrants like El Norte
  • Host a program where your patrons can become pen pals with an immigrant
  • Currently, there's The Comfort Campaign going on right now which is open to anyone (ends July 4th). They're asking for letters of welcome and comfort, artwork and/or a teddy bear to be sent to a nonprofit which will send it out around the US to their 27 different locations. Might make a great and easy program.


On a Personal Level, If You Want to Help Out, You Can:



Inform Yourself

Make Phone Calls

  • DOJ Comment Line: (202)353-1555
  • Chief of Staff, John Kelly - 202-456-1414
  • Attorney General, Jeff Sessions - 202-353-1555
  • DHS Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen - 202-282-8495
  • Acting ICE Director, Thomas Homan - 1-866-DHS-2-ICE
  • HHS Secretary, Alex Azar - 202-690-7000
  • Acting Assistant ACF Secretary, Steven Wagner - 1-877-696-6775​
  • ORR Director, Scott Lloyd -202.401.9246

Do you have any additional suggestions? Please let us know in the comments!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Ready to Go Book Display: Mermaids

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go! Book Display." Once a month we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. This month we are featuring books with merpeople!

Recommendations for Adults:

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (Apr 2005) 

Jessie Sullivan is summoned home to tiny Egret Island, where she meets Brother Thomas, a monk who is about to take his final vows, and encounters the legend of a mysterious chair dedicated to a saint who had originally been a mermaid.

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon (Mar 2011)

Falling in love with a prince whose rescue by a mermaid she secretly witnesses, Princess Margrethe is promised in marriage to the prince to bring peace to their warring kingdoms only to discover that he has taken a familiar-looking lover.

Folklore expert Carolyn Turgeon looks at the beautiful, seductive, mysterious, and potentially dangerous mermaids that are global literary and pop culture icons.

The Mermaid's Daughter by Ann Claycomb (Mar 2017)

Opera singer Kathleen has always suffered from strange maladies, and when they get in the way of her career, her girlfriend Harriet encourages her to visit Ireland to determine the cause of her dark family legacy of suicide.

Recommendations for Teens:

The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble (Mar 2015)

Clara discovers that her sister is becoming a mermaid, and realizes that no mermaid can survive on land. Desperate to save her, she and her friend load the girl in a gypsy wagon and begin a journey to the sea. 

The Mermaid's Mirror by L. K. Madigan (Oct 2010)

Lena, almost sixteen, has always felt drawn to the waters of San Francisco Bay despite the fears of her father, a former surfer, but after she glimpses a beautiful woman with a tail, nothing can keep Lena from seeking the mermaid in the dangerous waves at Magic Crescent Cove.

September Girls by Bennett Madison (May 2013)

Vacationing in a sleepy beach town for the summer, Sam is pursued by hordes of blonde girls before falling in love with the unusual DeeDee, who compels him to uncover secrets about the community's ocean-dwelling inhabitants.

Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly (May 2014)

Uncovering an ancient evil, Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas, to save their hidden world.

Merman in My Tub by Itokichi (Oct 2015)

What happens when an intruder from the sea stakes claim to your bathtub? A cool yet demure teenage boy named Tatsumi must learn to live with the self-obsessed and playful mermain, Wakasa, in a small Tokyo apartment in this manga series.

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks (May 2012)

Galen, a prince of the Syrena, is sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. He finds Emma and after several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, Galen becomes convinced Emma holds the key to his kingdom.

Recommendations for Kids: 

The Mermaid by Jan Brett (Aug 2017)

Set in the ocean off Japan, this retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears stars Kiniro, a mermaid, who finds a baby octopus's breakfast, chair, and bed just right.

The Little Mermaid by Trixie Belle (May 2013)

Toddlers and preschooler can discover the fairy tale of the Little Mermaid with just a handful of words and bright, enchanting illustrations.

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Apr 2018)

Glimpsing a trio of women dressed up in fabulous mermaid costumes while riding the subway home with his abuela, little Julian resolves to make a fancy mermaid costume and headdress for himself and wonders what his abuela will think of the mess he makes, and more importantly, how his costume will reflect how he sees himself.

Introduces the concept of point of view through the prince's retelling of the classic fairy tale.

Poor Unfortunate Soul: A Tale of the Sea Witch by Serena Valentino (Jul 2016)

Presents an adaptation of the classic Little Mermaid fairy tale from the perspective of the sea witch who provides Ariel with human legs in exchange for her voice.

Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner (Mar 2017)

Fish Girl, a young mermaid living in a boardwalk aquarium, has never interacted with anyone beyond the walls of her tank until a chance encounter with an ordinary girl, Livia. Their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl's longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank.

Dive under the sea and into Ariel's enchanting world. Featuring a sea witch and her spells, dinglehoppers and mermaids, this storybook retelling of the classic animated film is a treasure to behold. Also check out: The Little Mermaid: Read-Along Storybook and CD.

The Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey (Apr 2009)

As a child growing up in Australia, Annette Kellerman was a frail ugly duckling who dreamed of becoming a graceful ballerina. With courage and determination, she confronted a crippling illness to become an internationally known record-setting athlete who revolutionized the sport of swimming for women, a movie star who invented water ballet, and a fashion revolutionary who modernized the swimsuit.

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler (Apr 2012)

After finally convincing her mother that she should take swimming lessons, twelve-year-old Emily discovers a terrible and wonderful secret about herself that opens up a whole new world.

Friday, June 8, 2018

8 Creative Book Club Ideas

Everyone loves a book club, but sometimes even the most well-attended group can start to feel stale. We looked into some different ways to revive, or start an entirely new club, and have compiled a list of ideas for you.

Book Clubs By Genre

Different Genres - Every month, your patrons can read a book of a different genre. Maybe January can be a mystery, February is historical fiction, and March highlights local authors. Perhaps you use cultural heritage months, and read books from around the world or different ethnic groups. Maybe you create a Diversity Matters group, and read titles from a broad range of nationalities and ethic groups. The sky is the limit! Broaden those horizons!

One Genre - So, your group loves mysteries. Start out with a murder mystery, move to a Cozy, and continue on to a police procedural. Investigate the options within your one genre by alternating between classics, lesser-known authors, and the first book in a James Patterson series.

Mysteries aren't your thing? No problem! There are shades of every genre, from science fiction to romance. One of the most popular clubs at a previous library was a group for tweens that read and discussed fantasy books each month. Specialized? Yes. Successful? Yes! The Muggle Support Group (I wish I could take credit for that name, but it predated me) was very popular.

Book Clubs with Crafts

Arts and crafts are hugely popular and successful at almost all age levels, and reluctant participants tend to be more talkative in a group setting when they have busy hands. Why not combine a crafting experience with a book discussion? You may want to keep the craft fairly repetitive and easy to do while focusing on a discussion, such as decoupage or coloring, rather than an involved craft that needs extra attention paid to instructions. Book clubs combined with knitting groups are a great combination.

Book Clubs With Food

We wrote about adding Cookbook Clubs, both by cooking theme or by cookbook, in a previous post, but it bears repeating! Cookbook clubs are a trend that we've seen a lot of lately, and they can be run in various ways. Will everyone cook the same style of dish from their own cookbook, or have the same cookbook and make different dishes? The choice is yours!

Another option is to have book clubs that serve food associated with the book. Many cozy mysteries and Amish romances include recipes in the back of the book, and titles of just about any genre include descriptions of meals that could be eaten. I would recommend probably sticking to smaller dishes, such as appetizers or desserts, rather than trying to cater an entire luncheon, but the choice is yours. This could also be done regionally; is your book set in Italy? It's the perfect time to serve some bruscetta! Are you reading Jane Austen? Scones and tea may be called for.

If this is cost- or time-prohibitive but appealing to you, it may be wise to ask your book club members to volunteer to bring one dish per month; alternating between who provides refreshments shouldn't overly be a burden, and would make things much easier on you.

Of course, we also see book clubs with wine or beer, usually held at a local restaurant or brewery. Just getting the club out of the library can reinvigorate a stagnant club, or add some "cool" factor to the mix.

Book Tastings

Book Tastings are not to be confused with book clubs with food! Generally, tables are set up as though at a restaurant, each place setting including one book rather than a plate. Members read the back cover or front flap, and the first chapter, to see if it's something they may be interested in, then alternate books. After "tasting" each title, members of each table can discuss which books they are interested in and why. (Some clever librarians also include an actual dessert - you have three books, and then a slice of pie.)

Reading Level Book Clubs

When learning to read, at any age, one of the challenges is being interested in what you're reading. Why struggle through when you don't really care what Dick and Jane do in the first place? Enter the Book Club. These can be useful for children beginning to read, but also for adult literacy or English Language Learners. Of course, you don't want to be talking down to a person just because they are working on mastering a skill, so choosing a book in these instances can be more difficult, but non-fiction titles tend to work well for most groups.

Inter-generational Book Clubs

The idea of a parent-child book club isn't a new one, but it can be a valuable addition to your inter-generational programming. Have each group of adults and children read the titles together, so they can discuss as a group how they feel about characters, actions, and plot - views change a lot when the character you relate to is the parent rather than the child in a story! This can be useful as a bonding experience, but also as an exercise to remind parents to remember what it's like to be a child and see things from their point of view. 

Books and Movies Clubs

When a book becomes a movie, they have to change things, if only because there's just not enough time to transfer every single detail from the page onto the screen. Whether they do it well or do it poorly, avid readers always want to talk about it! 

The options here are to have a showing of the movie (license permitting), or to distribute copies of the movie just like you would with a book. Get together after the movie and discuss just like you would a normal book, but including the adaptation into your conversation. Do the characters look and sound like they thought you would? Did they include all the most important scenes?

Book Conversation Groups/Readers' Advisory Groups

Rather than trying to get everyone to read the same book, have a group where people discuss what they're currently reading and enjoying and what they're excited about coming up. Then, showcase some titles that are new or exciting to you at the library, recommending specific books to specific patrons if possible. This type of group has worked for me especially well with teens, where I feed them baked goods. We call it "Books and Brownies."

We would love to see what kinds of creative book clubs you've been running! Please leave us a comment here, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Shelf-Sitters That Rock!

Summer is upon us, we here at the 5 Minute Librarian would like to help make things a little easier for you while you're trying to plan, promote, and implement programs, paint windows, take photos, encourage a love of literacy, and generally manage the hectic pace that accompanies summertime in the libraries. How can we help? With some easy displays!

We know you loved the shelf-sitters and staff pick bookmarks we wrote about before, so we decided to jazz them up with this summer's theme: LIBRARIES ROCK! Of course, all these images are copyrighted, and must be used within the set guidelines.


A shelf-sitter is a little piece of advertising material that sits right on your shelf with a book. You simply cut out around the design, fold down the remainder of the paper, and the tag sticks up in front of the book you want to highlight. These are great for displays, and also work well in the stacks, where you can call addition to particular titles with ease. Just right-click and save the files to print.


You can fill out the bookmark and leave it on the shelf where it lives, or on a display. Alternately, leave a small stack of these next to your book return, and let your patrons fill one out when they find a book they think really rocks. (Yes, let them do the work for you!)


And, of course, no display is complete without signs. Here are a few simple variations on our theme to make things easy for you.

Please let us know if you enjoyed these! You can comment here on the blog, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Friday, May 25, 2018

10 Insider Secrets Librarians Only Tell Their Friends with Kids

The library is the perfect place for people to bring their kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. Not only do we have oodles of books, but you can do so much more. Today, we're going to talk about 10 things that only library insiders know (which librarians would share with anyone... who is willing to listen):

1. Audio Books

There are so many different types of audio books which can making reading really fun for kids who don't want to read quietly with a book. If you have young kids, look for books on CDs. You can read the book while listening to the CD, which is filled with lively music, different voices, and sound effects. For older kids, you can get audio books. Turn it into a family affair and listen to an audio book together in the car!

2. Music

Expose your kids to a variety of music. Libraries also have soundtracks to your kids' movies as well as kid friendly classical music like Mozart's Magic Fantasy which combines classical music with fun narration. And, of course, you can find any version of your favorite children song in the collection as well.

3. Passes

Call your library and see if they offer museum passes. Many do, and they offer a whole lot more than museums: state parks (a bonus if the park also offers swimming!), amusement parks, baseball games, aquariums, zoos, gardens and more! Some passes offer free entrance and some offer discounts, but definitely worth checking out.

4. Check Out Board Games, Puzzles, and Dolls

Many libraries are expanding their collections with board games, puzzles, and even American Girl Dolls. This is perfect since these toys won't clutter your house and by the time the kids are bored with it, it is due back at the library.

5. Play Rooms

What to do on a rainy day? Come to the library and let your kids play with the toys! Many libraries offer a play room (or section) with dolls, figurines, dinosaurs, trains, cooking station, and more. They have computers which your kids can play learning games and offer other educational learning entertainment.

6.  Librarians are Trained Recommenders

Found a book your kid loved? Librarians can suggest readalikes to keep your kid reading and engaged all summer!

7. Libraries Have Your Kids' Favorite Characters

Feeling a little intimidated with what to check out with all that the library has to offer? Start with your kid's favorite TV characters. You'll find books, DVDs, music, and maybe even video games that star their current interest in the moment.

8. Fun Programs

Check out the library calendar to see what events and programs they are holding throughout the summer. They offer them throughout the day and on weekends. They hire professional performers as well as host their own events for a great variety. Everything is free!

9. Don't Worry About Fines

Who hasn't lost a library book? Or misplaced a DVD? If your fines are below the set limit (usually $10), it will not hold you back from checking something out at the library. If it is higher, you are still welcomed to participate in programs, visit the play area, and use the computers. Most libraries will even have a fine forgiveness summer event where you can clear your fines with doing something as simple as bringing in a few can goods. Call and ask! But whatever you do, don't feel embarrassed. Even librarians rack up fines.

10. Libraries Aren't Safe to Leave Little Kids Alone

Libraries love kids, but librarians worry about little kids when there's no adult (or older sibling - usually age 9 or above) around to keep an eye on them. Libraries are a busy place these days and they are open to the public. Librarians are constantly away from the desk, either running a program, preparing for a program, or helping patrons. They can't keep your precious little ones safe.

Bonus: You can use the library from the comfort of your own home!

Check out your library's website. Do they offer Hoopla, Freegal, or Overdrive? These places will let you download movies, TV shows, audio books, music, and ebooks with just inputting your library card number. You can also request books ahead of time so you can just stop at the library to pick up books and you won't have to be stressed trying to browse with kids.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Ready to Go Book Display: Dogs

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go! Book Display." Once a month we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. We are looking at books featuring some of our favorite four legged friends. This month is dogs! (Check out our Cats Display.)

Recommendations for Adults:

Underwater Dogs by Seth Casteel (Oct 2012)

An award-winning pet photographer and animal rights activist presents 80 underwater portraits of canine pals, each with their own unique personalities depicted in the bubbles, paws in mid-paddle and billowing ears. 

For all the love and attention we give dogs, much of what they do remains mysterious. This book uses the latest science on dog cognition and emotion to share new information and myth-bust about about our furry friends. 

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet's Journey by Stephen Kuusisto (Mar 2018)

A blind poet describes his relationship with his first guide dog and how it changed his life and gave him a newfound appreciation for travel and independence. 

A Dog's Way Home by W. Bruce Cameron (May 2017)

Traces the story of Bella, a dog who is drawn to Lucas Ray, only to be separated from him by rules that disallow pitbulls in their Denver community, a situation that compels the puppy to travel back to the person she loves.

Recommendations for Teens:

Dog Shaming by Pascale Lemire (Sep 2013)

Based on the web phenomenon Dog Shaming and containing photos that are all-new and exclusive to the book, this hilarious album showcases adorable snapshots of shamed pups confessing their biggest - and grossest - sins.

Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth by Guinnevere Shuster (May 2016)

What better way to showcase adoptable dogs than by letting their true personalities shine in a photo booth!

Presents selections from the popular Twitter account that combines photographs of dogs with ridiculous captions.

Your Robot Dog Will Die by Arin Greenwood (Apr 2018)

In the near future, the few surviving dogs are studied in a sanctuary, Dog Island, where seventeen-year-old Nano Miller tests robotic dogs, seeks her missing brother, and her experiences her first romance. 

Soldier Dog by Sam Angus (Apr 2013)

Follows the World War I experiences of Stanley, who upon joining the war effort to escape his father is assigned to the experimental War Dog School, where he trains a Great Dane with whom he attempts to find his missing soldier brother.

Recommendations for Kids: 

Ladybug Girl and the Rescue Dogs by Jacky Davis (Mar 2018)

While at the farmers' market with her mama, Ladybug Girl spies some rescue dogs and, together with the Bug Squad, finds one of them a forever home.

Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart (Mar 2018)

Brodie the dog returns from the afterlife to save his boy. 

Learn about dogs, famous and infamous and otherwise, throughout history.

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey (Aug 2016)

The heroic adventures of Greg the police dog who, after being injured on the job at the side of his police officer companion, makes history through a life-saving surgery that transforms him into Dog Man.

Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensey (Apr 2018)

When he is paired with a girl who has lost her legs, Rescue worries that he isn't up to the task of being a service dog. 

Let's Find Momo! by Andrew Knapp (Apr 2017)

In this board book, fan-favorite Internet sensation border collie Momo hides within lavishly detailed, photographic spreads that also invite children to search for other hidden objects.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Creating a Plan to Create an Escape Room

Despite our best efforts, the 5 Minute Librarian team doesn't know absolutely everything there is to know about librarianship. Luckily, we do know some really awesome people. This week, we have guest blogger Christina Dufour, Teen Librarian at the Thayer Public Library in Braintree, Massachusetts, to walk us through one of the coolest - and most intimidating - programs ideas we've seen lately: Creating escape rooms.

So you want to create an escape room…now what?


The first thing I did before creating any of my Escape Rooms was to do field research – I went and played in several Escape Rooms.  In my area that is a 5 Wits as well as Escape Rhode Island in Providence.  I played several different narratives to see what kinds of puzzles we might be able to use and how different places designed their rooms.  Since then, I have also read several articles about what other libraries are doing. You can use lock boxes, Morse code, word searches, black light flash lights, and tons of other stuff! With all that in mind, here’s how I ran 2 different Escape Rooms for our library.

Choosing a Theme & Narrative

For me, when planning a room, choosing the theme is the first step.  In my mind, there’s no sense planning a room of puzzles first.  It has been much easier to pick a theme, create the narrative, and then plot the puzzles.  I use my flyers to communicate what the theme is, but the narrative stays a surprise!
Last year, our community read theme was themed around art.  So I created an Escape Room under the guise that Scott Cawthon (Five Nights at Freddie’s creator) had a traveling art exhibit.  The narrative was that teens had been invited for a private tour 15 minute tour of Scott’s private art gallery consisting of tons of framed Video Game art prints (thank you, internet!) but Scott was nowhere to be found.  Rumor had it that he had hidden an Easter egg to his next video game somewhere in the room, but teens only had 15 minutes to search and find it before getting caught.  Now, I don’t actually know Scott Cawthon, so all of this is made up, but my teens had fun anyways.
My second theme and narrative is Stranger Things-inspired (it will be taking place next week during school vacation). My Teen Advisory Group voted for this theme and I focused on the narrative.  Luckily, it syncs up with our mystery theme for this year’s community read.  The idea is that teens have been invited on a tour (man, I like giving tours…) of the Hawkins Laboratory. The only problem is that, just before arriving, a monster may or may not have been let loose in the lab.  Now teens have 15 minutes to solve* the puzzles in the room and find the code that will unlock the door override system. 
*Please note that most Escape Rooms are traditionally longer.  1 hour is most common but, due to time constraints and limited staffing, my rooms have been condensed down to 15 minutes.  I do let teams re-try a room, if time or participating teams permit.

Escape Prep:

                Now that you have your theme and your narrative, you’ll need to pick some puzzles and an end goal.  The end goal could be to unlock a box, find a key, or find a certain thing.  With my first room, there was a hidden object (a book) that contained the video game plans.  With my second room, they need to find a 3 digit code that contains the “off switch”. 
                I find that working from the end goal backward is helpful, as was asking my teens for input because I used some and then some of what they had to say spawned other ideas.  I also like to use, what I am calling, a “puzzle planner” – this helps me think methodically through any puzzles I want to use and track how they link to each other and the goal.  The attached one was one brainstormed from Teen Advisory Group and hasn’t actually been tested…
It also helps to be aware of what you can logistically use.  For both of these rooms, I think I spent under $50. I purchased two blacklight sets (yellow, blue, pink pens with blacklight lights) from Amazon. I also purchased 2 Vaultz lockboxes and 1 mini lock box with a key from Amazon.  Everything else was printed or recycled from within the library.  We don’t have any doors to actually lock, so the word locks wouldn’t have made sense for us.
This year I am using a word search and Morse code, which is easy because there are online word search builders as well as Morse Code keys. I plan to print multiple word searches and simply replace them during the reset phase.
                With the Art Exhibit Escape Room, I used our program room.  This room has 2 kitchens and 2 tech closets, so I explained to teens that they were to stay within the open space unless a clue specifically said otherwise (the book was hidden in a kitchen).  I used several tables and placed Video Game pictures in black frames.  I hung some up as well.  There was also one random vase (which contained tissue paper and the blacklight lights).  Some of the picture frames had blacklight messages, such as “nice try!”, “so close!”, and several math equations.  These numbers (when all found) gave them the code for lockbox #1*.  This box contained a key.  The key led them to the locked “cash” box (with printed Monopoly money).  If they noticed, there were only the same couple of bills in there.  On the back were more blacklight flashlights and simple math.  Again, put the 3 digits together and it unlocked the final box.  The final box told them it was “behind these doors” and they’d be able to find the book.  Don’t be afraid to add red herrings - if you have a longer program especially - because it adds to the fun. 
Note: *If you use Vaultz lockboxes, keep that code!  It’s a pain to have to reset it without it.  You can change the numbers after initial set up, but you’ll need that first code.
The plan sounds like a lot, and for some groups it was, but I allowed all teams to try to ‘beat their time’ and they loved that.  We also used this set up with a Dr. Seuss art museum theme for the children’s department.  It was slightly different as we dropped a lot of the math parts.
Next week, we will be running Escape the Lab (a Stranger Things-inspired Escape Room) in our program room.  Here’s the rough outline:
Teens have been invited for a tour and now have to escape.  In the room, they will find several things: a board game and 2 boxes. One is locked and needs a 3 digit code, one is unlocked and contains cassette tapes.  If players open the board game, they will find a Morse code key, a word search, a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet partially filled out, and D4 dice.  (Please note: you won’t need to think about a red herring here because the board game choice doesn’t matter – it will be enough to throw them off.)  In the unlocked box are several cassette tapes, blacklight flashlights, and a journal entry from Dustin.
The goal of this is the 3 digit coded box, as it contains the “off switch.” 
Digit 1: The teams will need to realize that there is Morse code on the board game box as well as the D&D character sheet.  The Morse code key is in the box, so they just have to see what it spells (eight, 8).  
Digit 2: The word search contains only The Clash songs from their album Combat Rock – in particular it had “Should I Stay or Should I Go” a few times.  If they look at the cassette tapes, they will find Combat Rock (and other albums) and in that album case is a clue that says “track 3” (3).  (Sidenote: I don’t actually own cassette tapes anymore.  I used cassette tapes that had been donated to the library, which we normally throw out, and upcycled them.  I measured the cassette tapes, recreated the album cover, and created a track list in Publisher.  With mod podge, I glued the new album covers to the inside front of the case, and the tracklistings to the inside behind the cassette tape, so it would still shut).  
Digit 3: The D&D sheet is important.  It’s Dustin’s (well…it says so on top) and there is a journal entry where he takes notes.  If teams read it, they will realize that Dustin brought 4 D4s this session, as he was expecting to level up to 4th by the end of that day (4).  (I fibbed A LOT here, as I don’t actually have a D&D book to rule check 1983’s Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook and haven’t read that edition).  

Enter 834 and they can get to the off switch!

Before the Day of:

                Before the day of your program, you’ll want to consider the following: how much time am I allowing for play and how much time will I need to reset?  Also, for waiting teams, what will they be doing?  I typically give 15 minutes for teams to solve the room, 5 minutes to reset- repeat.  I run this over a 2 hour time frame. While waiting, I have provided word searches, riddles, and other games that get teens brains working. 

On the Day of:

On the day of your room, you’ll want to consider the following:
  •     Do I have all of my puzzle pieces?  Am I missing anything important?
  •     Do I have/need a timer?
  •     If I wrote a clue in blacklight, can it still be read? (Sometimes blacklight ink fades, making it next to impossible to read with the lights.  You may need to redo/reink these clues.)
  •     Have I created something for teams to do while waiting?

In the end, it doesn’t take much to be clever.  Your teens are experiencing an Escape Room for free and are bound to have fun with their friends. 

In Conclusion

Many thanks to Christina for her valuable input on an intimidating topic! We'd love to hear if you have attempted to create an escape room, and how it went for you. Tell us in the comments here, on Twitter, or on our Facebook page.