This post is an article from the Winter 2018 issue of the OYAN Review and has been edited slightly for publication on the blog. It was written by Marian Rose at the Seaside Public Library.
I consider myself lucky that my library is right across the street from our district middle school. The teen events are held after school on Tuesdays for one hour (unofficially an hour and a half). Although it’s easy access for teens to attend after school, keeping it interesting and fun (while introducing what the library has to offer) to keep them coming back and wanting more can be a challenge.
When I scheduled a murder mystery in the library I had no idea where to start. But, like many of us, I turned to other libraries who have taken the challenge on before me. I found a library district that offered a free download of their teen mystery program and rewrote the whole thing to fit my library. I made a brochure with information about the event and delivered them to the middle school.
The victim was a librarian and the six suspects book characters like Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen. Motives pertained to reasons patrons get upset with the library at times (computer time is up, have to pay fees before you can check out another book, etc.). The weapons (stapler, cup of coffee laced with poison, etc.), and where the crime took place (teen room, kids room, etc.) all enticed their interests to be involved.
With 17 teens at the event, we broke them up into 5 teams. Each team started with 3 cards and a clue of how to get the next card and another clue. With most of the clues they had to find a specific copy of a book, in a specific section of the library, and they had to keep the books as they continued. Some clues sent them to areas or landmarks in the library that they might not think about. We have a Geochron world clock, a free seed exchange, a free paperback exchange, and an old travel trunk that they never really pay attention to or know where they are located. If they found all of those and still were not confident to solve the crime, they could earn more clues by reading aloud a page from one of the books they found or decode a Morse code message.
The part that tripped them up the most? NOT reading the whole clue or ￼looking in the catalogue for the author or title or location. For example: Percy was assigned to read Shakespeare’s classic play “The Tempest.” He didn’t get past the first five words and flunked his assignment, but if you find the adult copy of this book, you just might be rewarded with a clue. This team did not read the whole clue and went straight to a Shakespeare biography. Finally they went to the catalogue and entered “The Tempest” and found the play in 822.33 with a card and another clue.
They all read aloud and they all decoded a Morse code message, but two teams ran out of time and had to make a best guess and two teams solved the crime. The event took the whole hour, but they could’ve used about 15 more minutes to really feel confident about solving the crime. They were surprisingly quiet throughout the library once they realized how much thinking and searching was involved. They all had a lot of fun and would love to do it again.
I would be happy to share the process to anyone interested. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-738-6742.