How Harry Potter Cast a Spell Over Laramie County Library

Several months ago, our Adult Programming Coordinator, Robin, heard mention of another library that did a Harry Potter escape room. Knowing the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter was happening this year, we wanted to do it, too! Our original plans came from Sarah Colombo from Livingston Parish Library .Having never participated in an escape room herself, Robin asked me for my opinion (I have done a few escape rooms). I read through the plans Livingston Parish Library sent our way; we were going to have to adapt them to accommodate our library. We created our own “puzzles,” and planned out step-by-step how our participants would escape from “Professor Vector’s” office! We spent months working out all the details and collecting items from our staff and various departments. All of these items lived in our office for the weeks leading up to the big day.

Once we gathered all our supplies, it was time to start testing our idea; we asked four staff members to help us. We set up some puzzles and watched as they solved them. This helped us realize some key pieces that would have to change.

When we first decided to do the escape room, we planned 30 minute timeslots for each group (a group would consist of 4 participants) throughout a Saturday, Sunday & Monday – this ended up being more than 60 slots! We posted the event on Facebook and used EventBrite (a free digital registration tool) to manage our sign-ups.

Just to give you some insight on this, for an event we post to our Facebook page, Facebook tells us the “reach” and “responses” our events garner. An average non-paid event on our page probably averages anywhere from 2 to 100 people reached. Here are the analytics from the Harry Potter Escape Room (a non-paid event).

Nearly 90,000 people saw our little event on our Facebook page!!! After being up for only a day, the slots began to fill; within 2 days every slot was taken! We were totally blown away! Because we had only planned holding the event for three days, we weren’t prepared to add additional date; we simply didn’t have the manpower. Since our library staff is so awesome, the Reference staff stepped up big time and agreed to allow the room to extend throughout the entire week, creating more than 100 additional slots. We posted them and within a few hours, and they, too, were snatched up! To say the response was overwhelming would be a gross understatement. We had people calling, emailing, and messaging us. It was nuts!

All the planning was done, it was time to execute! We set up the room on a Friday morning in one of our study rooms (we had signage to say this study room was out of order), and Potter fans began coming. They came in twos, threes, and fours! They tried; some escaped and some didn’t; everyone had a BLAST! We had people come from Laramie, WY; Boulder, CO; Green River, WY; Riverton, WY; and even a boy from Casper, WY (towns at least an hour to four hours away). It was all this little boy wanted for his 11th birthday!

By the time it was all said and done, more than 350 people came to the library and made their way to our 3rd floor for this escape room. We had some people stay and browse books, look through our exhibit that was on display at the time (Our 3rd Annual Invitational Inspiration and the Artist Book), grab a coffee or treat from the The Library Cafe, or just hang out with their friends. I will never forget hearing the groups squeal in delight once they discovered the key to escaping the room!

Because it was so popular, we have decided to plan another escape room. It will coincide with our big Smithsonian exhibit coming later this year: Discover Space. It won’t be a Harry Potter room, but it will be equally as awesome, because, after all, space IS the final frontier……….

~Anna M.

As the Digital Marketing Specialist for Laramie County Library, I work in the Community & Media Relations department. One of my fellow co-workers, Robin Papaleka is the Adult Programming Specialist. She plans and executes so many programs on topics ranging from glacial ice loss to beekeeping! Robin spends weeks and oftentimes months planning these. The Harry Potter Escape Room was just one of many events that happened this summer.