Tuesday, 28 January, 2020


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Puzzles @ your Library

By John Nalan

Reference Librarian

Either my hot coffee flowing toward our family’s jigsaw puzzle or the arrival of the local television crew from Duluth should have been my first clue that this year’s Puzzle Contest at the Grand Rapids Library was going to be a bit different.

It all started innocently enough. My daughter loves jigsaw puzzles and she was going to be in town for our Library’s annual puzzle contest. I took the day off work and signed our family up for a morning of fun at the library. I hoped a few other family members could join us for a relaxing morning. As a bonus, first prize was a gift certificate from Sammy’s Pizza donated by the Friends of the Library volunteer group. I invited my whole family to join the team and then ordered a sausage and double cheese pizza for myself since I was sure we would win.

When December 27 rolled around, I learned my entire family could be there for the jigsaw puzzle contest. The team was made up of my wife and I, our two children, plus my mother and brother. They were all very excited to win, so I did not tell them I had already eaten the grand prize.

My family arrived at the library full of hope. We joined six other teams in the contest. Each of the puzzles was an identical picture of a dog park. The rules were simple. Take the puzzle to a table in the library and put it together. The first team to finish was the winner.

Things started to go wrong for my team very quickly. We struggled to decide which table to sit at. Everyone in the family had a different opinion on which size table would be best. One of the other teams cheered loudly as they came close to finishing their puzzle. Meanwhile, our family had decided on a table near the Mississippi River.

Then came my coffee spill. I tried to pretend it was no big deal, but it soon became apparent that the coffee had swelled a few of the cardboard puzzle pieces enough so that they would no longer fit together. Just then, we heard a loud scream resonate through the library. One of the other teams had finished their puzzle. How was this possible? We had been putting pieces together at a remarkable pace, yet this other team had already finished. Rumors of cheating, or even performance enhancing drugs, quickly made their way through our corner of the library.

However, there was also another rumor circulating. A better rumor than ours. Word spread that the FOX 21 News team was coming to film the puzzle contest. Apparently, they were already somewhere near Wawina. This was music to my ears. At this point, morale on my team was low. We were on the verge of giving up. Even my attempts to encourage my family with the possibility of winning the “Most Cookies Eaten” award had failed to speed up our puzzle progress.

As more and more teams were finishing their puzzles around us, it became a real possibility that we could be the only team still working on our puzzle when the news crew arrived. I wondered if my families excitement at being on television would make up for the fact I had already eaten the pizza we were no longer going to win.

It turned out that there was still one other team working on their puzzle when the news camera arrived. The photojournalist got a lot of good video of my family putting together the puzzle. He also got film of the other team’s excitement as they completed their puzzle. If he got any images of our sadness at finishing in last place, he mercifully did not use them for the evening news.


The puzzle contest certainly did not go the way my family and I had envisioned. We experienced defeat rather than victory. The miracle of television, however, adjusted my attitude rather quickly. As my family watched ourselves on the evening news that night, the puzzle pieces seemed less coffee soaked and the bickering seemed more congenial. We all agreed that we had had a great time at the library and could not wait to sign up for the contest next year.

Thank you to the library for providing us with a great family memory. I encourage each of you to try the puzzle contest next year.

Coming Up @ your Library

January 6, Book Time9:30 or 10:30, Join us in the Story Circle for books, songs, finger plays, flannel board stories, and all other sorts of fun. Then move to the Community Room for a snack, a craft, and a time to play and visit.

January 8, Library Board Meeting 6 p.m. The board meets monthly in the Riverview Room at the library. All meetings are open to the public.

January 11, Saturday Story Time 10:15 or 11:15, Join us in the Story Circle for books and songs. Then move to the Community Room for a snack, a craft, and time to play and visit. Families may earn one Baby Steps coupon for attending Story Time.