Something magical has happened to one of the Timberland Regional Library’s courier vans.
It was an ordinary van, used to ferry books and other materials among the system’s 27 branches.
Now — at least for the rest of the month — it’s AzkaVan, concealing within its plain exterior a Harry Potter-themed mobile escape room aimed at teens.
“There are a lot of teens who really love Harry Potter,” Tumwater Timberland Library’s Holly Guthrie told the Olympian.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Olympian
The escape room, the libraries’ first program on wheels, will roll in to the Olympia Timberland Library parking lot Saturday with future stops including Lacey on Aug. 16 and Tumwater on Aug. 23.
Up to four middle-school and high-school students at a time enter the van and work together to free a wrongfully imprisoned librarian from AzkaVan, a takeoff on the books’ wizard prison, Azakaban. Each group has 25 minutes to help the librarian escape.
Inside, the teens face riddles, puzzles and locks, Guthrie said, adding, “I don’t want to give any spoilers.”
The program was conceived by Guthrie and her colleagues on the library’s Teen Services Council, which wanted to offer a systemwide program.
The magical part was the natural next step.
“A lot of us are really big fans of the books, so it sounded like something we could take on,” Guthrie said.
The plot, essentially, is that Albus Dumbledore is helping the librarian escape but then must leave to visit another school of wizardry. “He has left a series of puzzles and clues and riddles that unlock different things to free the librarian,” Guthrie explained.
That detail echoes the J.K. Rowling books, in which the beloved headmaster often just happens to be gone during crises, leaving Harry and friends to find their own solutions.
In its first few stops, the van has been a hit, the librarian said.
“There’s been a lot of excitement,” she said. “Some people have even come in costume. It’s been really awesome to see them. A lot of teens are enchanted when they’re able to get in the van and see all of the different Harry Potter references.”
While this is the library’s first mobile program, it is not, of course, the first time a library van has been a big attraction.
“Timberland Regional Library had bookmobiles back in the day,” said library spokesperson Michelle Larson.
“With the founding of Timberland Regional Library in 1968, many of the rural communities were served initially by bookmobiles,” she told the Olympian. “Permanent library buildings were added over time with some branches starting out service in stationary bookmobiles. The last of those were decommissioned in the early 1990s.”
She does know of one remaining Timberland bookmobile. Now privately owned, it resides in a field a few miles from Amanda Park Timberland Library.
Teens are invited to work together to free a wrongly imprisoned librarian in “Escape from AzkaVan,” a mobile escape room open to middle-school and high-school students.
10:15 a.m. Aug. 11, Olympia Timberland Library, 313 Eighth Ave. SE, Olympia. 360-352-0595
1 p.m. Aug. 16, Lacey Timberland Library, 500 College St. SE, Lacey. 360-491-3860
1 p.m. Aug. 17, Tenino Timberland Library, 172 W. Central Ave., Tenino. 360-264-2369
10 a.m. Aug. 23, Tumwater Timberland Library, 7023 New Market St. SW, Tumwater. 360-943-7790
11 a.m. Aug. 24, Shelton Timberland Library, 710 W. Alder St., Shelton. 360-426-1362
Registration: Advance registration is necessary. Stop into or call the branch at which you want to visit AzkaVan to reserve a time.