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Puzzle Me This: Connecting User Communities With Libraries Through Puzzles Mathew Willmott, MIT Science Library

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Puzzle Me This:

Connecting User Communities With Libraries Through Puzzles

Mathew Willmott, MIT Science Library

- The MIT Libraries Puzzle Challenge
- In October of 2007, the MIT Libraries embarked on a new type of marketing campaign, and released the first of a series of puzzles to the MIT Community. Five more puzzles were published throughout the course of the 2007-08 academic year. Each puzzle required the use of at least one library resource to find the solution, and students who correctly solved a puzzle during the given time period were entered into a drawing to receive an iPod Nano.
- Goals of the campaign
- Survey data showed us that advertising should be more engaging; thus we designed puzzles that would:
- Be fun for students to solve
- Made puzzles challenging but not impossible
- Modeled puzzles after MIT Mystery Hunt
- Introduce students to new resources
- Citation searching in Web of Science
- Paper reviews in MathSciNet
- Urban planning history in Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
- Advisory database for business, management, and economics

- Marketing strategies and locations
- Each puzzle had a solving period of about two weeks, during which we tried to use pointed marketing strategies in various locations to advertise to students who would be interested in solving them.
- Most successful locations:
- Lobby 7, MIT’s main lobby
- Puzzle page in The Tech, MIT’s twice-weekly campus newspaper
- Spotlight on MIT’s home page
- Other locations, with mixed success:
- MIT Libraries News Blog
- Slides before on-campus movies
- Fliers at library desks
- These advertisements were designed to focus on the puzzle; solutions were submitted through an online form.

- What did we learn?
- Get to know the audience you’re advertising to:
- MIT students are problem-solvers, and so puzzles were effective
- Engage people with a fun activity:
- Solvers actually used the resources rather than just hearing about them
- Consider your target audience when choosing advertising locations:
- TheTech’s puzzle page got the most attention.

- Next Steps
- Currently conducting a survey of solvers:
- What they liked about the campaign
- Whether they learned anything about library resources
- What they think about advertising locations
- Considering conducting a focus group to get more detailed feedback

For more information:

Contact me at [email protected] or visit the MIT Libraries’ puzzle page at http://libraries.mit.edu/puzzle.

Puzzles

Puzzle Construction: An In-Depth Example

The main goal in the construction of these puzzles was to guide the users to a resource and show them some way in which it could be useful to them in the future.

Other Puzzle Examples

- Compendex
- Column 1: ISSN numbers
- Column 2: Compendex reference numbers
- Not solvable with Google alone
- First puzzle released
- 38 correct solutions received

- Puzzle highlights the Dewey Research Advisor (DRA):
- New, lesser-known resource
- Patrons could find it useful
- Solvers are directed to the DRA by the letters in bold italics scattered throughout the lower half
- Solvers use the DRA to find the answers to the questions with the appropriate number of letters
- Answers can be entered into the grid so that the elongated boxes contain a single letter:

- MathSciNet
- Highlights peer reviews
- Grayed lines refer to MathSciNet MR numbers
- 32 correct solutions received

- Inventions of Note sheet music collection
- (created at MIT)
- Word search in which the unused letters are the important piece
- 67 correct solutions received

- The completed grid reads “Answer is Milton Friedman” in the grayed boxes
- 109 students submitted a correct solution to this puzzle

Now it’s your turn!

Solve this puzzle to get an MIT Libraries keychain!

(attach sample puzzle here)

- Sanborn fire insurance maps
- Pictures are counties in Massachusetts, solvers need to identify the highlighted town
- Numbers below each picture tell the solver which Sanborn map of that town to use.
- 56 correct solutions received

Statistical Results

- Dewey Research Advisor statistics
- Puzzle released in November. Statistical analyses showed significant increases in usage during November (and September when I was writing the puzzle)
- Top chart: Total queries to the DRA search box by month during 2007; November had a 200% increase over October.
- Middle chart: Answer pages accessed in the DRA, either through queries or through browsing the questions; November had a 40% increase over October.
- Lower chart: Total web traffic to the MIT Libraries webpages for the month of November 2007. November 20, the day the puzzle had a spotlight on the main MIT homepage, had 7796 visits, almost 2800 visits (56%) more than the second highest day that month.

- Inventions of Note web traffic
- Red=puzzle open for answer submission
- Green=puzzle in construction
- Blue=remainder of the spring semester
- Average visits per day for the blue section = 136
- Average visits per day for the red section = 304

Solver statistics

Submission count by student status (correct solutions in parentheses)

- 237 different MIT students solved at least one puzzle
- 23 students solved three or more puzzles
- 3 students solved all six puzzles.
- 122 students requested to be notified directly via email when future puzzles are released
- Chart at right tells where students reported that they first saw the puzzle

What students are saying:

“…thanks also for providing a fun distraction from work throughout the year. I only wish you'd started these earlier in my time at MIT.”

“I had a lot of fun solving the puzzles!”

“The puzzles were unexpected, entertaining, and a welcome distraction from everyday work. Seriously, what MIT student wouldn’t be intrigued by a cryptic list of numbers, especially if it isn’t on a p-set?”

“It succeeded in not only being entertaining, but I actually learned a great deal more about the MIT library tools. Keep it up in the future!”

“More frequent library puzzles, please.”

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