Puzzle enthusiast starts Cloquet puzzle swap library

In order to get a wider variety of puzzles to work on, avid puzzler Bekki Babineau started the Cloquet Area Puzzle Swap Library.

Some of the 20 puzzles currently present in the Cloquet Area Puzzle Swap Library. Visitors can take a puzzle, leave a puzzle or swap out puzzles they've already worked. Contributed / Bekki Babineau

Cloquet resident Bekki Babineau remembers being hard pressed to find a new puzzle to work on during the lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"During the quarantine time, puzzles were pretty hard to find in stores and even online," Babineau said. "Or their prices had jumped up or they were on backorder for weeks. So I thought, why not have a way for others to share their puzzles and give someone else the joy of putting together a puzzle I enjoyed putting together."

Babineau has created the Cloquet Area Puzzle Swap Library cart and Facebook page to encourage local residents to contribute and take fresh jigsaw puzzles. She was inspired partially by a puzzle swap she'd attended in person before the pandemic at the University of Minnesota Duluth's Kathryn Martin Library.

"They did this big puzzle swap event that I went to back in 2019. I brought four puzzles to swap and took home three," Babineau said. "It was exciting just to know that other people would get to enjoy my puzzles and that I had new ones to work."

Babineau thought about planning an in-person puzzle swap in the area, but then the pandemic hit and her plans were no longer practical.


It didn't take long for her to hear about the Jigsaw Puzzle Swap of the Twin Ports down in the Duluth - Superior area.

"Previously, I'd been commuting down to Duluth every day for work, so stopping at the library for puzzles would have been easy," Babineau said. "But when we were locked down, I started working from home so it wasn't practical to travel down just for puzzles."

She started thinking about creating her own version of the library. Babineau reached out to the administrator of the Twin Ports swap to ask questions about how it all operated and what she could do to start her own. The administrator happily shared some tips and tricks and soon enough Babineau was dreaming of her own library. Now she needed a place to put them.

Babineau asked her husband, John, if he would build a puzzle library for her as an anniversary and birthday gift. He was happy to oblige.

"It took him a little while to build this summer, but it's now up and running," Babineau said.

John and Bekki Babineau stand beside her new puzzle swap library in Cloquet. The library opened up a couple of weeks ago to allow jigsaw puzzlers in the area to swap out their puzzles for different ones. Contributed / Bekki Babineau

The library is a bright red raised box on wheels so that Babineau can wheel it in from the street every night to discourage vandalism. Every morning around 8 a.m. she wheels it out to the curb. She takes it back to the house around 8 p.m. She also started a Facebook group to drive up interest. She started with 10 of her own puzzles and now said she sees several come and go every day.


"Yesterday, for the first time, I noticed we had some 100 piece puzzles for kids with SpongeBob and Paw Patrol pictures. I loved seeing that," Babineau said. "It's growing in diversity and size and I couldn't be happier."

Patrons of the puzzle library do not have to bring their own puzzles to take puzzles, nor do they need to take puzzles to leave puzzles. Babineau would like for visitors to take and share photos of their completed puzzles in the Facebook group. And if you're bringing a few puzzles to the box, consider posting a photo to pique another's interest. Also know that if you add a puzzle to the swap box, it's very likely you will not see it again. Visitors aren't required to return puzzles once they're done with them.

Babineau does have one other request for those who bring puzzles to the library: put the puzzle pieces in a Ziploc bag inside the box. That way if a cover comes loose, she doesn't have a mess on her hands.

"Plus, there's a chance I'll miss a piece and then someone will get stuck with an incomplete puzzle," Babineau said. "That's never fun."

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
What To Read Next
Get Local