Raise your hand if you worked a jigsaw puzzle during COVID. Those weeks of pandemic shutdown found many of us returning to this well-loved pastime.
Interest in puzzling skyrocketed and in March of 2020, puzzle company Ravensburger saw sales increase of 370% from that month the previous year. Puzzle historian Anne Williams noted that this was a trend similar to the puzzle demand during the Great Depression. In 1933, ten million were produced every week and one could be rented for a nickel per night. Evidently people turn to puzzles during uncertain times.
Three years prior to the arrival of COVID, M.A. Powers walked into the Belmont branch of RPL with a smile and a question: “If I donate puzzles that I’ve given my daughter over the years, can you circulate them?” The answer was yes! A few steps were taken regarding the circulation process, and soon puzzles were checked out like magazines. Library magic!
Once we publicized this new option, patrons donated many more puzzles. Our closet is now filled with over 75 puzzles at any given time.
Checking out a puzzle from Belmont Branch* is easy.
- Puzzles range in size from 300 to 1,000 pieces.
- Patrons can check out two (2) puzzles at a time.
- Puzzles check out for thirty (30) days.
- Patrons can make notes about a particular puzzle on a page that is included in each puzzle box.
- Puzzles cannot be renewed. However, like other library materials, puzzles do not accrue overdue fines.
- Puzzles are displayed on one shelf and are refreshed on a regular basis.
- *All puzzles should be returned to the Belmont location/front desk only.
The benefits of puzzle-working are countless. Puzzling activates both sides of the brain, the logical (left) side and the creative (right) side. Studies have shown that working jigsaw puzzles can help with visual/spatial reasoning and short-term memory and may combat cognitive decline.
Puzzling also has mental health benefits, potentially reducing stress and anxiety. Lastly, completing a puzzle can bring a sense of pleasure and satisfaction for people of all ages.
Typically jigsaw puzzle-working has required a puzzle, a flat surface and at least one person. But that scenario has changed, possibly influenced by COVID experiences. During 2020, five puzzlers from across the country connected online to form a U.S. group, now the the official American liaison to the World Jigsaw Federation.
This group helps puzzlers compete in the World Championships. Contests and competitions abound.
One of our local patrons enthusiastically participates in online jigsaw puzzle competitions. Another patron tells of a friend with cancer whose situation has been helped by puzzles. The patient herself may not always feel up to working on the puzzle, but her visitors can work on the puzzle during uncomfortable conversations. The puzzle working provides a distraction, as well as a sense of calm and comfort.
“Are you a dissectologist?*” If so, you are invited to come into Belmont Branch and pick up a puzzle to help reduce stress, to sharpen your problem solving skills, or just to enjoy! While in the branch, you will most likely see a puzzle in progress on one of our public tables. Patrons of all ages stop by to add a piece and admire the emerging image. It’s fun to see how people in a library community can join together, creating a perfect fit!
*A dissectologist is a person who has a passion for solving jigsaw puzzles and derives great pleasure from the process.