Teens search a piece of — fake — bloodied gauze for the pieces to a combination in an escape room on Oct. 21, 2022, at Soldotna Public Library in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Teens search a piece of — fake — bloodied gauze for the pieces to a combination in an escape room on Oct. 21, 2022, at Soldotna Public Library in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Great escapes

Teens tackle faux zombie plague in Soldotna Library activity

At the Soldotna Public Library on Friday, five teenagers came together to race against the clock in search of a cure for the zombie plague. With Soldotna overrun, and someone in the room in the process of turning, the teens had to solve a series of puzzles, find the cure, and escape from the room.

Youth Services Librarian Leslie Meyer — who designs the library’s escape rooms — said they’ve been a regular part of library programming for a few years, though put on hold by COVID-19 in 2020. The library runs them for both teens and adults. The zombie-themed room on Friday was an adaptation of one previously run for the older group.

Meyer turns the community room at the front of the building into the escape room, decorating the room thematically, strewing about red herrings and pieces of the puzzles.

On Friday, the room had caution tape on the doors, chairs were overturned and torn notes covered the floors. On two walls were sets of vials containing mysteriously colored liquid. The teens had to comb through books, find keys, open boxes, read cursive and use a map to find the cure, with only an hour from the start until the bite on Meyer’s arm turned her permanently into a zombie.

The teens managed to save Soldotna, with only moments to spare.

Meyer said that adult rooms haven’t been possible for a while, but they are slated to return. She described how, in the adult version of the zombie room, she would have another staff member supervising, freeing her to be a fully infected zombie, prowling around the room. Those touched would have to sit out for five minutes.

“It’s so funny to see a group of adults kicking and screaming around,” she said.

“We did spies, we did zombies, we did ‘Stranger Things’,” Meyer said. “We had a great response from everybody.”

Meyer said she enjoys watching groups work through the puzzles.

“I say, OK guys, go crazy, do your thing. Look everywhere,” she said. “They always stand there for a second, but then they get super into it.”

Meyer said the goal is just to “try and do something special for everyone, kind of make the library a happening spot.”

Meyer said the pandemic put a damper on the rooms, which were previously held almost monthly, and her partner on the project moved into a different position, but she wants to see it get back to what it was before.

“We were really hitting our stride,” she said. “It was always really popular and we kind of wanted to get back into that.”

Meyer said, right now, the library is targeting doing an escape room around once a quarter. The next will probably be in January. She said she plans to resurrect the “Stranger Things” room, and wants to do a cryptid hunt-themed room outside on the library grounds.

For more information on events at the Soldotna Public Library, visit ​​soldotna.org/resident-services/library.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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