Escape Room for teaching TexShare/TexQuest Database

In April, I attended a session at the annual 2018 Texas Library Association (TLA) conference called, “Thinking Outside the Lockbox: New Ways to Use Escape Kits in Any Library”. I was impressed with how well-attended it was by both school and public library staff, and it was evident that escape rooms were clearly a huge trend, something Texas libraries are buzzing about. On the panel, a librarian from Keller High School, Audrey Wilson-Youngblood, showcased a digital lockbox (a kind of online escape room) that she created for her students to teach intellectual freedom concepts (check it out here).  I noticed she had included a tutorial on Gale’s Issues in Context, and this got my attention. Here was a Texas librarian incorporating a TexQuest database into an escape/breakout exercise. I’m passionate about the TexShare/TexQuest databases and the value they bring to communities. As a library technology consultant at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, I want to do what I can to encourage their more widespread use across Texas. Plus, I love games and puzzles. So it felt like a match made in heaven. I immediately thought to myself, “The State Library should be doing this!”

(For further reading, check out Wilson-Youngblood’s blogpost: “Lessons from the Lockbox”, which accompanies her 2018 TLA presentation.)

I didn’t have long to wait for an opportunity to come up. In July, TLA holds Annual Assembly, where TLA members meet and develop the programming for the next annual conference. Continuing education (CE) classes are offered, too, and TSLAC was invited to provide training on the newly-acquired databases for TexShare and TexQuest. Gale’s Opposing Viewpoints in Context (OVIC) was already immensely popular with our school librarians via TexQuest,  and it was now being offered for public and academic libraries through their TexShare subscription. I wondered, could this database be taught in an escape room format? It was worth a try. As I had learned, escape rooms can be a fun, engaging, and novel way to teach something. They incorporate gamification and encourage team building and problem solving.

Logo for Opposing Viewpoints in Context

I knew it might be a challenge. Most escape rooms are undertaken by a small group of 3-5 people. I wanted something that could be conducted by upwards of 30 participants simultaneously, but could also be done by one person. I also didn’t have any kind of budget, so I couldn’t order any kits or gear such as props, clue cards, locks or boxes – the use of which would have also meant that it couldn’t be easily replicated by other libraries.

I started doing some research and discovered that there is actually a cost-free solution that doesn’t require anything other than an Internet-connected device and a browser. One can just modify Google Forms to create what is called a “digital lockbox”. Not only is it free and simple to set up, it can be used by someone on their own, on any device (even mobile) at any location, and it’s easy to share and customize so that other libraries could conduct it themselves.

Here’s the end result, a Google Form that I created that takes you through a series of “locked” areas, and only by entering the correct answers can you continue on through to the end.Try out it out here :


To play, one needs the escape room handout (PDF) to print and fill out.

All of the answers can be found in Gale’s Opposing Viewpoints in Context (OVIC) (use your TexShare or TexQuest authentication to access), and to help those unfamiliar with this fabulous resource, I compiled a handout (PDF) to learn more about what the database has to offer.

And here are some slides (PDF format) that describe how I came up with this solution and the steps I took to create it.

Finally, if you’d like to conduct the escape room live to your own group, here are the full powerpoint slides (PPT file | 3 MB) for the training presentation before the escape room begins to set the scene (please edit it to your heart’s content). There’s a fun moment when the Anti-Librarians League seizes control of the powerpoint and then the ghost of Tesla appears to save the day.

Let me know how it goes!

You can also customize the digital lockbox directly for your own purposes if you want. Here are instructions for how to copy it over to your own Google Drive so you can start making it entirely your own:

  1. If you’re ready to copy, go to this link.
  2. Sign in using your own unique Google account if prompted.
  3. Respond yes that you’d like to make a copy.
  4. Voila! The new copy that shows up in your account is now yours to edit as you please.

Henry Stokes conducting the Escape Room at Annual Assembly.

Henry Stokes conducting the Escape Room at Annual Assembly.

Thanks to everyone for playing!  It was a lot of fun.

If you have questions or want to share your own Escape Room / BreakoutEDU / Lockbox stories, let me know!

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