Great Escape-tations

Library invites patrons to puzzle out new challenge

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Kilgore Public Library is offering visitors a literary locked room mystery – where they’re the main characters.

For-profit escape rooms have been on the rise for a while, with operations popping up across the country including multiple ones in this area. Guests are locked in a room with a timer running, trying to beat the clock as they scour the area for clues.

At KPL, the fun is free in two stints this month. Next week, ‘Escape Wonderland’ runs Tuesday through Thursday inside the 301 N. Henderson Blvd. facility. Spots were reserved so quickly the library staffers already know they’ll be bringing the challenge back for a second run.

For library director Stacey Cole, it’s another way to engage patrons of all ages at the public amenity.

“Libraries aren’t just for checking out and checking in books and materials,” she said. “We’re here to provide services and resources and things to do for our community.

“A lot of people would like to go to escape rooms with their families, but at $20 a pop it’s $80 to $100 to take your family.”

Admission is open to everyone at the library’s event, but spots are limited and were almost fully-reserved soon after the activity was announced.

“It’s an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme. The Mad Hatter has locked up Alice, and you have to go in and figure out clues to get her out,” Cole said. The challenge takes place inside a 10-foot by 20-foot tent raised inside the KPL common room, and it will be there for a while: “We’re doing it multiple days – we’ve had a lot of requests so we are actually going to keep it indefinitely, and we will be running it again.

“If people missed the sign-up this go-round, they need to sign up for our newsletter. They’ll get notified via email when the next go-round is,” likely the last week of August.

Cole’s tried her hand at two commercial escape rooms, including a brainstorming trip with library staffers. They’ve borrowed elements for the local initiative, with permission.

“It’s as close as we can get to that. It’s the same type of experience. We know they’re really popular right now, so we started doing some research. Libraries, fortunately, like to share,” she noted, and the “Alice in Wonderland” theme was a natural choice. “We didn’t start from scratch completely. We had resources from other libraries that have done this.”

It’s a family-friendly activity. Children under 14-years-old must be accompanied by an adult.

“We don’t recommend it for kids under the age of 7 but we leave that to the family’s discretion,” Cole added. With multiple people playing together, “We’ll put them in the room, explain some things they need to know about the room and we’ll have a timer.”

Everything in the decorated space could be a clue, she added, and some will mislead. It took library staffers 35 minutes to complete the challenge.

Helpers will stay in the vicinity, but they won’t hover over participants. Everyone gets three free clues – any more than that adds time penalties.

“Whoever has the best time will get a little goodie prize after we’ve run next week,” Cole said. “Our mission is to provide fun things to do for people of all ages. We definitely are wanting to do more things for the teen demographic, and we did have a teen team sign up for this event, so we’re really happy about that.”

For more information about ‘Escape Wonderland’ and other Kilgore Public Library activities, call 903-984-1529 or follow Facebook.com/KilgorePublicLibrary.

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