Puzzle key to creating new social connections at Gabriola library

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, January 9 2018

A simple jigsaw puzzle is making connections at the Gabriola library.

Librarian Amy Dawley from the Gabriola branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library told the story of the puzzle at the Health Collaborative Forum hosted on Gabriola.

She said at the beginning of 2017, the staff had the idea of putting out a jigsaw puzzle. “We’d seen some branches which had put puzzles out.”

They went across Folklife Village to the Island Pharmacy, and found a puzzle.

“It sounds simple,” she said.

As people came into the library - throughout the year - they were there for various reasons.

“Maybe people were there to spend time, enjoy the air conditioning, but what happened is something richer.”

What Dawley and the other staff members noticed was that some of the more isolated members of the community who would not normally seek out social interactions, have started to use the puzzle as an “anchor.”

“They can be in the library, but not interact directly with anyone, which can be challenging. 

“Everyone can come in the [library] door no matter what their background is - there is no self-identifying. People have used this as a gentle way to build a community for themselves - that’s what we’ve heard from the most ardent puzzlers.”

For some of those who have found it a way to be social, it has allowed them to find friends with a like interest.

“They look forward to seeing each other and working on the puzzle together.”

Dawley said people are also using the puzzle to access other programs in the library. 

“People will use the puzzle and have an ear, which is one way for people to participate.

“When we have public talks, people are off to the side keeping themselves busy, but they are able to enjoy the talks.

“It is something that is simple, but it has had a profound effect. 

“For me, I’ve always said libraries are about people.  

“The simple things we can do at our library are the things that are going to help with the social interaction on our island.”