Have older students coming to your public library, and you want to do something more memorable than simply giving them a tour and some reading time? Would you like a fun, 30 minute program that would have your students racing to every section of the library, and learning lessons about where resources in your library are located in the process? Would you like to do all this, for no money needed? Well, I have the program for you! Introducing “Murder at the Public Library! Oh My!”
In February we had a group of students coming to the library as part of a Catholic Schools Week mini-course. This was one time a year when the school opens up class time to engage 5-8th grade students in workshops that they otherwise would not be able to enjoy. I signed up our library as a course, not knowing what I wanted to do. This is a big deal for the students, so I wanted the program to be fun, memorable, and something they would want to brag to their friends about when they got back into school, “Yeah, we went to the library. And we did this… Yeah, our course was better than yours. You should have come.” 🙂
Anyway, I finally found the idea I wanted in “Murder in the Public Library”. It is a program very similar to the game of Clue. I found excellent resources from Erica Littlefield, Youth Services Department Head of Twin Falls Public Library. You can access information about how she ran this program on pages 5-6 here.
For our program, I used Erica’s location clues and re-wrote them to reflect our library and our collections. You can find a copy of my clues here. Brewer Library- MysteryNightClues I used the brochure that Erica made, and only tweaked the line about where I would be “Come to the Children’s Library and see Miss Emily”.
To write the location clues (directions of where in the library to go next), I went around the library, and using Erica’s list, I saw which clues I could use from her program, and which ones I needed to re-write. This took a little bit of time, probably an hour. Then, I re-typed up the clues and printed them on five different colored papers. Each color of paper designates the name of the team, so it would be easy for kids to know if the clue they found was for them. Then, I also printed the “Narrowed Down Clues” also on the same five colors of paper.
On the morning of the program, I cut out the location clues and the Narrowed Down Clues. Beginning on Location #2, I stapled a location clue and a narrowed down clue together. That way, when the teams found it, they would know where to go next, AND have an clue about how to narrow down the “Who, How, and Where” part of the mystery. (See the photo above of the two green pieces of paper stapled together to get an idea of what this looked like.) I hid the stapled clues in the books or places referenced on the clues themselves. Some of the books I had planned to hid clues in had been checked out, so I handwrote new clues and just picked different books to hid them in. For the books, I had the clues sticking out the top of the book, to help the kids find them.
The program is set up to have five teams. I only had 8 students come, so we only did 3 teams, of 2-3 people each.
To begin, I gave the whole group a tour of the library, telling them that I would be giving specific information that they would want to remember about each section of our library as we came to it on the tour. After the tour, I read the rules and gave each student a copy of the brochure. I then gave each team leader the sealed envelope. It is always fun to open sealed envelopes, and it gave this program a level of mystery! In each envelop was the first clue, and the first location each team needed to go to find clue #2. And they were off! I told them each group could have 2 hints. This program took 30 minutes, and all three teams finished within 5 minutes of each other.
When they thought they knew the answer, each group came back to the Children’s library, and I handed them their second sealed envelop, this time with the solution to the mystery.
I was surprised to see how excited the kids were about this program. They were literally running to different parts of the library, and I had to tell them to be respectful of other patrons. Afterwards they grouped together to discuss the guilty party, and they discussed together what they thought a just punishment would be.
This program was a lot of fun! I was worried about it, but it turned out very okay! I can think of lots of opportunities to use this throughout the year when we just want to do something extra special for the youth who come into the library, and hopefully, help them discover something new.
Downloads from Erica and myself: