Every Saturday since Feb.13, a group of Nebraska City youth has met at the Morton-James Public Library in Nebraska City with zombies and puzzles on their minds. What emerged from those gatherings is Nebraska City’s first “Escape Room.”

The library received a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association. Library Director Rasmus Thoegersen said 79 libraries across the nation received grant money, which is to be used to start or supplement a creative program.
The library’s reaction to the grant was to create an escape room. The Library Lockdown, as it is called, is located in a former storage room in the lower level of the building. Groups of four to six people are locked in the room and given one hour to solve a series of puzzles, gathering clues that help them navigate their way out of the room.
The Library Lockdown officially opened May 25. Mayor Bryan Bequette and his family, including wife Kelly and children Blake, Taylor, and Michael, were the first chosen to participate. The Bequettes were shut in the room while project designers and their families waited in the Kimmel Gallery, watching a closed circuit video of the Bequettes’ progress.
With four minutes to spare, the Bequettes emerged triumphant. When asked how they were able to escape the Lockdown room, Taylor Bequette replied with one word.
“Teamwork,” she said.
Thoegersen was impressed with the family’s success and issued a challenge to all other interested parties.
“The mayor and his family set the bar,” Thoegersen said. “Now we challenge other groups to beat their time.”
Thoegersen is keeping track of participating groups and their successes on the new Web site thatlibrary.com. He said the ideal size for a team is from four to six people and he recommends at least as many adults as kids.
“It was built by kids, but that doesn’t make it easy,” Thoegersen said. Use of the Library Lockdown room is free, although the library will accept donations. Groups need to contact the library to make a reservation.