Southern California woman entertains neighborhood with puzzle library

Posted at 2:15 PM, May 13, 2020

Puzzles are all the rage these days and they're hard to find or on backorder. So, a Southern California woman set out on a mission to make sure everyone has a chance to puzzle.

Emily Knell shows us a puzzle called Family Vacation. Since people can't go on an actual family vacation, the puzzle is pretty popular.

"I've been puzzling since after high school; I guess we would always have a puzzle going on," Knell said.

When the stay-at-home orders were issued, Knell thought people could use a distraction.

"I started thinking, ‘well, I’m a jigsaw puzzle hoarder. I ought to share.’ But there were so many, and I didn’t want to do a puzzle exchange. I did want them back,” she explained.

That’s when she had the idea to organize her hundreds of boxes of puzzles and put it on the social media site Nextdoor. She created catalogs, offering people a digital view in pictures.

She notates in red when a puzzle is checked out. There's been so much interest, and you could say Knell is now the most popular person on the block.

“You can let your mind wander. You don’t have to be concentrating, unless you’re going to do this one. I challenge anybody to do it. It’s 3,000 pieces," Knell said.

Knell has even caught the attention of a local professional photographer, Nathan Wakamoto , who took pictures of Knell and her puzzles from a social distance.

She never gives anyone a return date.

“Puzzling is an enjoyable and stress-free experience, and I don’t want to put a limit on time. It’s not a rush,” she said.

There’s no rush and no rules, except for that social distance. Pick one up, drop one off. Donate if you want, or not. She'll sanitize the puzzles and asks that borrowers sanitize on the way in. That way everyone wins.

The self-proclaimed puzzle nut or "puzzle-aholic" says she's created a lot of addicts in the neighborhood, but this is one addiction she's happy about.

"This is a very healthy addiction,” she says of puzzles. “It’s good for mental health. It’s what was needed during this lockdown and quarantine and all of that.”

From the looks of her library patrons and by the number of checked out jigsaws, it appears this happy addiction is here to stay.

“It’s pretty cool. I’m very happy about it,” she said. “I’ve had people ask, ‘Are you doing this after the pandemic?’ Yeah, I’m doing this forever now.”