Our new circulating jigsaw puzzle collection is very popular with our patrons. For the staff, however, not so much. The number of parts in each puzzle creates problems when the puzzles are checked out and again when they are checked in. “It’s a nightmare,” said Principal Library Clerk David Richy.
“We treat them just like multi disc dvds and audiobooks,” he explained. “We have to verify there are no missing pieces before we check it out. That way we make sure the patron won’t be blamed for missing pieces when it’s checked back in. It’s no problem on audiobooks, where even a doorstop like Ron Chernow’s biography of Grant only has 38 disks, but these puzzles can have up to 1000 pieces! Then we have to count them all over again when the patron brings them back.”
Richy, who used to play a lot of poker, has perhaps the nimblest fingers on staff, but it still takes him upwards of ten minutes to count the pieces. He explained his technique. “First of all, we can’t even fit all the pieces on the checkout desk at once. If we make too big of a pile they start falling off the desk. I dump about a third of the pieces onto the desk and then count out piles of 10. I’ll then recombine those into piles of 100 and mark that on the tally sheet taped to the desk.” He repeats the process until he has ten piles of 100. Meanwhile, other patrons can’t be checked out until he finishes.
“The worst is when I’ve got what I think is ten 100 piece piles, but there is a piece left over,” he said. “When that happens, I have to go through the whole process all over again. I can’t take it any more. I’m starting to see puzzle pieces in my sleep.”
Richy said he dreads days when snow is in the forecast. “Everybody in town seems to want a puzzle in case they get trapped inside. We seem to count puzzle pieces all day before the storm only to go through it all over again the day after when the puzzles come back.”
Library Director Laura Eckley says she understands the staff’s frustration, but can’t see any alternative. “There’s nothing worse than struggling for days to finish a puzzle only to find out that there’s a piece missing.” she said. “We have to make sure that when a patron of the Larchmont Public Library checks out an item, be it an audiobook or a puzzle, they are getting all of the item. Our reputation is at stake.”
“I’m just glad she didn’t have us put a barcode on each piece,” Richy sighed.