Find the Future

Posted on May 31, 2011 by

Last week I was able to spend the night at the New York public Library, but this was no sleepover! I participated in Find the Future, a write all night / scavenger hunt adventure, from 8pm Friday night to 6am Saturday morning! Out of over 5,000 applications, only 500 people were chosen to participate in the start of a mobile and online game interacting with forgotten secrets and hidden treasures of the library.

This photo that I took appears in the 100 Ways to Make History book as part of the at the New York Public Library’s collection!

To sign up, you had to answer a seemingly simple question: In 2021 I will be the first person to ____.

My own personal answer to this question was “Land on Neptune.” The next question was to list what drives you and your qualifications to achieve this goal. I didn’t realize they wanted a somewhat real answer to this question, so I wrote that because my astrological sign is a water sign, I hear Neptune’s call through the fish and the sea. My friends figured I wouldn’t get picked with this answer, but apparently they were looking for creative answers since we’d end up contributing to a book that will be held in the NYPL for as long as it stands (!!!). Unfortunately for them, I got picked and they didn’t, neener neener! ;)


The hall where we gathered before it started.

The room where we wrote all night!


Fast forward to the night of. Once we arrived and checked in, we still had no idea what exactly we were going to be doing, or how the game would be played. We were split into two teams, choosing whether to go with Team Patience or Team Fortitude (which are the names of the two lions guarding the library outside). The little group I had formed decided to go with Team Fortitude and we were lead upstairs into a large study room with long tables and desk lights. There, game leader Jane McGonigal explained to us the rules of the game. We had to uncover the various treasures throughout the library by scanning the correct QR code to the clue. Once we did, we could log on to the website where there were different writing prompts that we could choose to write and submit for the Find the Future book called 100 Ways To Make History.


A look down one of the infamous stacks underneath the NYPL

We would also get to take a quick tour of the 40 miles of stacks that are deep underneath the library, which very few people have access to. While we toured the stacks, we were told that there were postcards from the future waiting for us. We were to take one and find the person whose name was on the card, while someone had a card with my name on it and had to find me! This was our message from the future which was related to our initial thought of what we wanted to be the first person to do in 2021. Here’s mine:


My message from the future!

As we set off to find the clues hidden in plain sight throughout numerous rooms and halls, our first stop was the map room. Here we absorbed the power from these artifacts through QR codes and our phones and were steps closer to our idea to unlock only the clues from the 3rd level. Teams could go about unlocking clues in any way they wanted, from any of the first three levels that were unlocked when we started. Upon successfully unlocking all of the clues in the 3rd level (and some help from the library staff as some of the QR codes that we had to scan were missing), we then ran back to the main writing room so we could start seeing some of the prompts that we could write for to include in the book. Unfortunately, we then realized that we could unlock any of the artifacts on the website without actually having to go to any of the rooms in the library and actually unlock them, which kinda took a lot of the fun away, since some of the clues were really like a scavenger hunt and you had to find them (while some were sitting right there in front of you). Therefore, anyone could write for any prompt, whether they actually unlocked it or not, which took some of the fun away. I would have liked to have kept searching and acquiring treasures.

I also just found this video by the NYPL that gives a great recap of the night:



A room where you could take a break from writing and eat or nap.

Throughout the night we could take breaks and get small sandwiches and snacks in the break room, take a nap if we needed, or just explore the various rooms in the library before some of them closed for the night. There were even people who organized a yoga session and a game of freeze tag through the Facebook group & Twitter! Those sites were also key in helping a lot of people help find and deliver their future postcards to the right person.


They had people there to help you with your writing if you were stuck or needed inspiration.

At the end of the night around 5:30am, we were all able to come up and sign pages of the book that were to be bound into the book (they brought in an actual book binder to put our whole book together) that will be stored in the NYPL for as long as it’s around! So I’ve got my name in the New York Public Library! :D They’ve also made available a PDF of the whole book that you can download here (a PDF will download from a Dropbox URL). In the end I contributed two photos, a handwritten note, 10 sentences, 1/4 of a new coat of arms, and my personal philosophy. It’s a huge document, but my photos appear on the bottom of page 194! The others you’ll just have to find on your own ;)


They brought in a bookbinder to put together a hard copy of our book once the designer went through it. Here’s the start of it!

I commend the library on executing such a huge event. Like they were saying when they started out the night, since they’ve never done anything like this, they didn’t even know if it was going to work! There were a few issues with some of the QR codes, but 98% of them seemed to work. They also thought they were going to get all of the pages printed by 6am, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen, haha. But I am glad they tried such an ambitious event. I hope it draws more positive attention towards the library, and show that it’s not just a place for “nerds” and a place for good times!

Click here for more photos from the night!

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