What’s the Big Deal About Escape Rooms?

by Stefanie

“Is this part of it?” one kid asks me. He’s holding up a clock that I had propped up in a corner of our program room, one of several dozen random (or, seemingly random) objects scattered on tables, on countertops, and even on the floor.

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I’m careful with my poker face. “I don’t know. Is it?” I throw back at him. He looks at it again, then puts it aside on the table marked “Important Things.”

He knows if he really needs help, I’ll give it to him. But instead, he figures it out on his own a few minutes later (as it turns out, the time on the clock is also the combination to a lock across the room). And the group gets way more excited about it, because they crack it all on their own.

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A bunch of objects scattered around – some significant, some not – may not sound like your typical library program. But this type of event has quickly become one of the most popular library programs int he U.S. It’s called an escape room, and the one we did for the teens his July was by far our most popular teen program of Summer Reading. In fact, the gears are already turning in my head, determining when and how I’m going to do the next one.

Ten years ago, no one had ever heard of an escape room. Now, there are almost 3,000 permanent escape rooms around the world. And this number doesn’t include the pop-up escape rooms that can be found at conferences and in public libraries. One can easily fall down a rabbit hole on Pinterest looking at suggestions on how to set up an escape room for your friends in the privacy of your own home. Permanent escape rooms create elaborate and detailed adventures tailored to different themes and skill levels, and can cost $30-50 per person (or more) for an hour-long event. They are hugely popular, and public libraries, as they usually do, are trying to capture the zeitgeist in their program offerings.

The concept of the escape room – although it has elements of medieval hedge mazes and role-playing games – can be traced directly back to video games based on the same concept: you’re in a room, and you have to solve a mystery to get out. The first of these games, Behind Closed Doors, was released in 1988, when PC games were still text-only. The escape room concept became truly popular, though, as a result of a 2004 Japanese video game called Crimson Room. From here, real world escape rooms were born, starting in Japan but then spreading into Europe and the U.S., with the first American company opening in 2013 in Seattle (probably not coincidentally in the same city where the first Starbucks opened).

The concept is deceptively simple. The room is the framework, and wraps the mystery up into a nice package while also providing the challenge: the clues almost always lead you to a key that allows you to “escape the room” (hence the name). But you’re surrounded by clues or potential clues, and it’s up to you to work your way through all the puzzles to get to the end. So the room is both the problem and the solution at the same time. Themes vary from the classic Private Eye mystery to the X-Files to Ancient Greece. The puzzled are generally organized so that no specific knowledge is needed. You need only bring your puzzle-solving skills to the table.

But most importantly, you’re working against a timer to solve the mystery. The adrenaline rush of racing to finish in time is a huge aspect of the appeal. To this we can add the immersive experience created by all of these themed adventures. Rooms set in specific time periods put huge effort into verisimilitude, and even fanciful rooms set in fictional worlds aim to include so much detail that players feel like they’ve stepped onto the Holodeck (apologies to non-Star Trek fans: this would be the computerized room that whisks you into any scenario, place, or story you can think of). In other words, it is a perfect pairing for libraries, where readers come to find the next book that will throw them into a new immersive fictional (or nonfictional, for that matter) experience.

Our escape room registration filled up several days before the event. We opened more slots, and it immediately filled again. The kids came ready to solve, and every group managed to finish nicely within the 30-minute time limit. The beauty of a program like this is that the core elements will remain the same: locks, invisible ink, objects tucked into secret places, messages to decode. But each time they can be rearranged and done with a different theme so that the same set of participants can return and get something totally new. This is what has made escape rooms so accessible and universally popular.

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This summer was the library’s first attempt at an escape room, but it was so popular and fun that we’ve got one planned for adults in September. So, if this sounds interesting to you, keep an eye on our program schedule, like us on Facebook and Instagram @anbllibrary, and check the website regularly. And be sure to register early!

 

 

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What Can the Library Do for Teens?

by Stefanie

I’ve been a library nerd my whole life, since well before “nerd” and “geek” became proud terms that we  nerds reclaimed from those people who might use them against us. I was raised by a library nerd. It’s in our blood, and is definitely why I’m working at the library today, writing this particular post.

The more recent evolution of the public library, from book repository into community resource and meeting place, has been an unexpected bonus. I could not have predicted all the services our public libraries would add (or what the next several decades will bring), but for me, that transition has transformed me from a library lover to a librarian, and transformed the library itself from hobby to career. I know I’m not alone in that feeling. Libraries were always cool, but now they are filled with librarians who spend their time thinking, “Yeah, we’ve done lots of cool things already, but what ELSE can we do?”

That brings me to our teens.

We are lucky to live in an area where the high school provides a ton of after-school activities for its students. Teens can be involved in sports, drama, robotics, and all kinds of other clubs catering to their interests after school is over. But it is still our goal as a library to be a resource and meeting place for teens (and tweens) as much as for adults and children. So we look for gaps that we can fill, services and other things we can offer to teens they might not be able to get from them middle or high schools.

We try to fill these gaps in one of two ways. First, we do our research. We look around at programs that other libraries are doing, programs that seem like they would be appealing to people who have attended our programs before, or just ones that are plain fun (Dungeons & Dragons, anyone?).

Second, and far more important, we get out there and ask our teens and tweens what they want to do. We ask them at our existing programs, when they come in to the library, and, when we can manage it, at school directly (after all, we want to find kids who wouldn’t already be coming into the library, as well). We can create programs until we can’t think of a single other thing to do, but it won’t matter if we’re not going directly to our teens and getting their opinions. We’re here for you, so who better than you to tell us what it is you’re looking for?

By that same token, we want to expand the materials we have for check-out for teens and tweens, as well. I love young adult and middle grade (who doesn’t?), and as both these areas become more dynamic, we try to do the same with our collection. This means keeping up with the books you want to read, as well as adding to our teen non-fiction. Non-fiction is all about providing materials on subjects you’re actually interested in. Our collection should feel inclusive, and should make clear to our whole community that all of us are important and valued.

Our goal in the coming months is to get a Teen Advisory Board up and running. This would be a group that meets monthly to put together and give feedback on programs, help us make decisions, maybe get exclusive access to new books before everyone else, and eat snacks (the snacks are very important). Teens who participate in the TAB group can get volunteer credit for coming, as well as get to pick the programs we do. How awesome is that?

If you’re interested in being a part of this group, please let us know!

And above all, talk to us. If there’s a program you want us to do, tell us. If there is a book or author or even topic you want included on our shelves, tell us. That’s what we’re here for!

Our next teen program is our No-Fish Sushi Making program at 3:00pm on Thursday, March 22. Drop in and join us. Or even drop in to tell us what else you’d like to be doing! We can’t wait to hear from you!

Seed “Library”

by Kelly

As the Adult Services Coordinator for ANBL I spend my days planning enjoyable, unique, and informative programs and providing a variety of resources for the Library’s 18-and-older community. From playing bingo with our Seniors during our monthly “Senior Social” program to teaching family history research, and planning the Library’s 100th Anniversary Celebration, my job is full of fun tasks and interesting people.

Despite being a century old, the Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library is anything but dry and boring. Library staff members are constantly thinking up fresh ways to deliver materials and programs to the community that are progressive and non-conventional by “traditional” library standards.

One of these “non-traditional” library collections we are excited to bring to the community in the spring of 2018 is our Seed Library. A seed library is exactly what it sounds like – a collection of vegetable, flower, and herb seeds that patrons can check out for free, and take home to plant in their own gardens.

With the help of the Community Seed Resource Program at Seed Savers Exchange and a local patron gardener, the library has a nice start-up kit of vegetables and herbs to offer patrons beginning this spring.

In anticipation of the ANBL Seed Library, we are hosting a “Starting Seeds” program on Monday, February 19 at 6:00pm at the library, where participants can learn about starting seeds, discover potting soil recipes for optimal growth, and even take with them  seed samples to start at home.

Seed libraries are popping up all over the country, and offer library-users and their communities a place to store, share, and learn about this non-traditional library resource. And then, at the end of the growing season, library gardeners can choose to give back to the seed library by donating seeds from their own harvested crops, or by leaving a review or growing tips for the following season.

We love to see our library patrons learn and “grow.” Look for the ANBL Seed Library to start circulating early this spring, and keep an eye on the adult program calendar for a complete listing of programs and events.

Happy planting!

Tinkering at the Library

by Stefanie


The libraries that we grew up with are gone.

A library in 2018, particularly a public library, if it continues to thrive, does so because it evolves and changes with the world around it. A library fifty years ago, or even twenty years ago, generally consisted of print media – books (obviously), magazines, newspapers – and the occasional story time. It might hold other resources and treasures, but the vast majority of library patrons came in for that print media, especially the books. And libraries will always (hopefully) be the best place to get a copy of the next book on your reading list.

But as technology, and even the way we read, has changed, libraries have come forward to fill a lot of creative gaps in ways you might never have thought of. Some of this comes in the form of lending a new range of materials, from DVDs to digital books and music to tablets and Kindles. Unique circulating collections, like our board games and Discovery Packs, are broadening what patrons can get out of the library.

But beyond this, libraries are also becoming more and more a place to DO things, in addition to checking out materials. They’ve developed into spaces for children and adults to make, to build, to create and imagine, and to just have a lot of fun. Here at the Belding Library, we are really excited about this (and frankly love having the chance to put together all of our makerspace kits and programs).

In the spirit of making, building, creating, imagining, and playing, we’re adding two new  children’s programs to our regular monthly schedule. One of them is our monthly STEAM Time. STEAM, if you’re not familiar, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. While it sounds very serious, what it means for us is experimenting using all of the parts of your brain while you play! While we love story time, and all the stories and singing and crafting it lets us do, STEAM Time will give our birth to five-year-old patrons a chance to learn in a slightly different way, while still getting to be silly! We’ll play games, build things, and experiment with sensory bins in a drop-in program the last Wednesday of the month at 10am, starting January 31st.

The elementary-aged kids get their own tinkering session in the form of our new Tinker Lab. Each month we’ll give the kids a surprise challenge along the lines of “Create something to protect you from a magician.” We will provide a pile of different materials for the kids to work with, and it’s up to them – either on teams or individually – to figure our how they want to solve the problem. This means figuring out the problem itself (what is it that actually needs to be fixed?), then creating a prototype solution they can test. The most important part is being willing to do some trial and error; tinkering is about testing, fixing weak spots, and trying again! Tinker Lab will be the fourth Saturday of the month at 10am, starting January 27th.

Additionally, while our Little Wigglers (birth-2 years) and Preschool Pals (3-5 years) start up again next week, we are also starting a monthly evening Family Story Time, for families who are unable to bring their kids to our daytime events, and for families who just can’t get enough of the library! This new story time will welcome all children – pre-K, and older children, as well – and their caregivers, and will include stories, songs, games, and crafts. Family Story Time will begin Monday, February 5 at 6pm. As for our “regular” story times, Little Wigglers will be every Monday at 10am starting January 15, and Preschool Pals will be every Wednesday at 10am starting January 17.

We are really excited to see what the kids come up with, and are working hard to find new ways to expand what our library provides to our Belding community. We hope to see you and your kiddos there!

 

Nature’s First Green is Gold

by Britney

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year.  I love the turn from hot to cool (and with it, tuck away my shorts and tank tops and pull out my jeans and sweaters), feel an intense desire to be outside, and happily spend yet another season a devoted subject of the Pumpkin King. (I don’t even mind raking leaves.)  Autumn is more than just a season to me; it is a feeling deep in my soul.

tyler fallOne of my favorite memories of the time I spent living in New York was being there during Halloween, and taking my son on an adventure to Sleepy Hollow (yes, it’s a real place) to poke around the town, its historic sites, and, at the end of the day, experience Horseman’s Hollow, a haunted house experience terrifying in a way only Halloween in Sleepy Hollow can be.  It was low 60s and overcast with a little bit of a breeze; the type of day you can wear your boots, a sweater, and a scarf without looking ridiculous, and can drink mulled cider with a cinnamon stick and not look pretentious.  The village was quaint and oozed nostalgia, and it seemed like every step we took brought us one step closer to meeting Katrina VanTassel, Ichabod Crane, and the Headless Horseman.  That day is one of those crystalline moments in time that shines in a way that makes most other days look dull.

It’s long been said that autumn is a season of change.  Here, at the Library, we’re experiencing that firsthand.  We’re looking at several “changes” here.  Some of them are exciting, some of them are bittersweet, but all of them are opportunities for the Library to expand and grow.

If you’re a regular at the Library, you’ve no doubt noticed quite a few new faces.  Sadly, we’ve had to say goodbye to some staff members, as they left us to take embark on fantastic new adventures.  We will miss them, their contributions to the Library, and the strengths they brought to our team here, but we wish them all the best and know they’ll be outstanding in their new positions.  The individuals who have recently joined Team Library are enthusiastic, energetic, and have their own strengths and areas of expertise that we know will be great assets to the Library.  Additionally, one of our Library Cornerstones has retired, and we will miss her dearly with our collective Library heart.

One of the characteristics of change is the necessity of looking forward.  So, in light of greeting the future with positivity and excitement, here are some of the things we’re looking forward to this fall:

  • New Services – We are rolling out several new things this fall.  These include things for all ages.  Some of our new offerings are services-related, some are programming-related, and some are collection-related.  Here’s just a small sampling:
    • For Adults: Passport Packs – These kits are subject-based, and contain several types of materials (books, music CDs, DVDs).  Kindles – We will be adding three more Kindles (Inspirational, Romance, and Christmas).  Services – We will be offering notary services.  Programming – We will be offering regular adult programming year-round.  Board Games – We will be circulating an entire collection of board games.  Additionally, we will be offering specialty Programming for Seniors the second Tuesday of each month.
    • For Teens: MakerSpace Kits – These boxes will include electronics kits, levers and magnetics kits, and Busy Boxes. These boxes will be in the Teen area, and will be available for Teens to use while in the Library.  ProgrammingWe will be offering regular and specialty Teen programming, and hope that our Teens think of the Library as “their” place.  Board Games – We will be circulating an entire collection of board games.
    • For Kids: LaunchPads – These pre-loaded tablets are age-appropriate, and are full of fun learning games!  Discovery Packs – We have fifteen brand new packs on a variety of subjects and with a variety of materials.

So, as we go forward into a new season and a new chapter at the Library, we look backward with appreciation at what we’ve accomplished and those who helped us do so, and we look forward with anticipation at where our Library adventures will take us.

Transforming Teen Programming

by Kristen

I am super excited for the advances we are making as a library in our offerings geared toward teens.  To me, getting teens to some to the library used to seem like pulling teeth.  And, as librarians, we don’t like teeth; we like books, and we like to have fun!  So how do you get teens to get interested in the events going on at the library?  The answer isn’t as simple as we would like it to be, but by consistently trying, we are beginning to come up with ways to get them in.

 

In 2015, we had thirty-seven teens (grades 6-12), sign up for our Summer Reading Program.  I used to try my hardest to get teens to come to the library.  I tried movie nights, book clubs, and art groups.  The harder I would try, the more I seemed to get discouraged.  The club room would be all set up for a fun evening, and as the time for the program crept up on me, I continued to be the only person in the room.

However, persistence truly does pay off.  I think we are finally starting to get through to the teens!  Woo-hoo!  As of right now, we are helf-way through this year’s program, and we already have seventy-five teens signed up for our reading program!  To me, that is a huge success.  Lately, we have been offering engaging events to capture their attention.  Recently, we had an after-hours Harry Potter party, and had a whopping twenty-two excited teens attend.  The week after, we showed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (©Warner Bros.) , and had a dozen show up.  Compared to having an empty room, the response to our recent programs has be feeling ecstatic and very motivated.

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In the coming weeks, months, and even years, my goal is to see teen participation in our library, as well as libraries as a whole, continue to grow and advance.  As technology continues to improve, libraries will continue to change and adapt to meet the needs of our community members, including the future of those communities: the teens.