This summer, youth programs at the Soldotna Public Library are educating local students not only through reading, but also with hands-on activities that teach practical life-skills — such as how to stay alive during a zombie plague.
Realistically speaking, youth librarian KJ Hillgren said that the game of Humans versus Zombies that she led on Friday at the Soldotna Public Library was not adequate preparation for an actual zombie emergency. Nonetheless, Hillgren said that Humans versus Zombies was her favorite youth activity.
“Because you get to run around in the library and scream,” she said. “You get to trash-talk each other, in good fun — in a library, which you don’t often get to do.”
In the tag-like game of Humans versus Zombies — played in the locked library with the lights out — human players can stun zombies by hitting them with balled-up socks. Zombies remain stunned for 30 seconds before being able to move again. A human tagged by a zombie becomes a zombie. The round begins with two zombies and ends when there are no humans. The last human wins.
Player Isaac Hayman, a frequent library-user who said that he had “read every zombie survival guide there is,” won several rounds. He said that the game becomes more difficult as a round continues.
“People don’t try to hurt you at the beginning, but towards the end it gets a bit harder,” Hayman said. “People will gang up on you. One will multiply to two, two multiplies to four, four multiplies to eight, eight multiples to 64. Do the numbers, and you’ll see how fast the infection spreads.”
Hillgren said that the game was more athletic than it looked, and required strategizing as well.
“In addition to being fun and physically challenging, there’s some critical thinking, too,” Hillgren said. For example, the choice of whether to collaborate with fellow humans or compete with them for socks and hiding places.
“You want to cooperate up to a point,” Hillgren said. “But at certain point you have to be in it for yourself.”
Heather Schaefer, a recent Soldotna High School graduate now working as a library page, helped Hillgren organize both Friday’s game and a previous one in June. She said she’s been successful with a selfish strategy.
“I hoard socks,” Schaefer said. “And if you hear people running, avoid them till the end.”
Tactics aside, Schaefer agreed with Hillgren about the basic appeal of the game.
“It’s fun just getting to run around in the library,” Schaefer said. “You grow up your whole life, like ‘Oh, don’t run in libraries.’ Now you just get to run around, and there’s so many places to hide.”
In one suspenseful round of Humans versus Zombies, Ree’lynn Lisenby wasn’t the last human standing, though she came close. Lisenby went down after being trapped in a dark corner of the children’s section and swarmed by three or four of her zombie friends.
“There was a mob behind me, then one person in front of me,” Lisenby said. “It was horrible. I hated going through the bookshelves, because I just imagined a zombie popping out at every moment.”
Jaala Lopez, who had been one of the attacking zombies, was unapologetic.
“I wanted to eat her brains,” Lopez said.
Reach Ben Boettger at email@example.com.