Karen Allen, Teen Services Librarian, and Molly Wetta, YA Library Assistant

Karen Allen, Teen Services Librarian, and Molly Wetta, YA Library Assistant

Molly Wetta and Karen Allen of Lawrence Public Library are the innovative minds behind one of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation grant winning projects. Their Choose-Your-Own-Apocalypse scavenger hunt styled program kick starts their Teen Read Week celebration with a real life version of an alternative reality game whereby participants must “Seek the Unknown” throughout the city in order to survive the terror that awaits them.

You have read the introduction of the Choose-Your-Own-Apocalypse program and wonder about the basic rules for participation, thinking it might interest your library’s teen group.
In order to solve all of the clues for the hunt, participants must have transportation and some type of tech that will take digital photos. Teams cannot exceed the number of 6 teens but can be made up of the teen’s parents and/or siblings. Teams must also choose one hunt from the list of apocalypse themes of zombies, aliens, super volcano, or civil war. Three hours is the total time allotted to obtain the necessary items and successfully survive the apocalypse. All clues lead participants to items that will help them survive the apocalypse such as food, water, and medical supplies. In some cases, clues are released through the participation of community partners. One clue is announced over the air by a local campus radio station, another is positioned on a local business sign, and yet one more can be found in the ad section of the local paper.

You understand the basic rules and desire to know how this program connects with the idea to “Read for the Fun of It”, so you continue reading.
Scenario ideas for the scavenger hunt are inspired directly from young adult books. For instance, one particular clue challenges participants to seek the designated safe shelter as well as discover the password to enter it, much like the characters have to do in Alexander Bracken’s The Darkest Minds. These type of dystopian and apocalyptic books are very popular in the Lawrence teen reading community. To further emphasize the reading aspect of the program, the SWAT book group will hold a book swap, discuss the young adult novel Ashfall, and also get to meet author Mike Mullin in person!

You are very much wishing that you were a teen reader at Lawrence Public Library this year.
While the Lawrence teens don’t necessarily know what a choose-your-own-adventure is they do understand the analogy of a real life video game challenge. The librarian duo have written and planned the entire scavenger hunt themselves, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous amount of support from library staff. Their supervisor, marketing director, and adult programming librarian all worked together to create a month long focus on “Octopalypse”, complete with more library programming that includes a co-sponsored event featuring author Max Brooks. If you are interested in learning more about their Choose-Your-Own-Apocalypse project keep an eye peeled for the programming piece in Novelist this spring where Molly’s shares the nitty gritty details on writing your own scavenger hunt program.

After reading about this inspiring piece of creativity, you feel compelled to apply for next year’s Dollar General Literacy Foundation grant for your own rendition of a Choose-Your-Own-Something. To which Molly and Karen suggest to strongly tie your plans back to literature in creative ways and to make your plans in advance.

Amanda Barnhart is the Young Adult Associate at the Kansas City Public Library Trails West Branch (in MO., not KS). She is also a current LIS student at the University of Missouri, Columbia and a member of the 2013-14 Teen Read Week Committee.

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