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  • Writer's pictureAnnekatrin Baumann

Research - "Now that's a fun mix!"

Rätselbücher und Tablet im Lesesaal einer Bibliothek
Meine übliche Aussicht beim Recherchieren

At the beginning of every book project there is the research phase. For me, it's about feeding my brain with as many different puzzle mechanisms and methods as possible. In the spirit of remix culture, I find it easiest to create puzzles when I can draw on as much knowledge and experience as possible. That's why I'm always on the lookout for new impressions and inspirations. It doesn't matter whether these inspirations come from current puzzle games in virtual reality or from puzzle collections from the 17th century.

The research starts with a book order at the Württembergische Landesbibliothek: I spend up to 60 minutes scrolling through database hit lists, trying to find books that I have not yet sifted through. It has proven very helpful to keep lists of the search terms I have already used.

Once the book order is placed, I usually have to wait a day (because I rarely manage to place the order early enough for the books to be available in the reading room the same day).

Only a few of the books are released for loan. This means that I have to pick up the ordered books when they are issued in the reading room. To do this, I present my library card and say that I would like to view the books in the reading room. The mostly older and also mostly female library help then walks along the long pre-order shelves looking for my order. From about this point on, I try to avoid any eye contact. The other library patrons are using the state library's extensive collection for their theses or other academic research.

When the library staff return with my colorful pile of children's books, games and puzzle books, they grin at me in irritation. Not infrequently, they comment on my order, "That's a fun mix!" Whereas at first I tried to justify or explain myself, I now usually respond with a grin and a shrug of my shoulders, imagining what the person must be thinking I need all these books for.

Even though research is not the most exciting part of my job as an author, I look forward to this special atmosphere in the reading room every time. It's simultaneously particularly quiet and yet there's a bustling murmur, pages flipping and chairs moving in the air. So the actual research means that I spend some afternoons sitting in the reading room at the Württemberg State Archives, poring over children's books, math and logic puzzle books, and quiz collections.

It's always incredibly exhausting: within 2 hours, I flip through up to 10 books at high speed. When I notice that my head is smoking and my eyes keep falling shut, I give up and hope that I have a halfway good yield. If I have noted at least 10 new puzzle mechanics that fascinate me or show me a new way, I am more than satisfied.

Ein Raster aus Cover von vielen verschiedenen Rätselbüchern
Ein kleiner Auszug der Titel, die ich bereits bei meinen Recherchen durchgearbeitet habe

I have also been able to optimize this research process in that I now scroll directly to the solutions and can usually tell from the solutions whether the puzzle holds something new for me.

My tablet has also become an indispensable part of this work. Whereas until last year I worked with endless cell phone photos, sticky notes, and food slips, the switch to a digital work process has really simplified the whole thing.

I'm already looking forward to when the libraries can go back into regular operation, when I have to hand in my water bottle and any kind of bag at the entrance to the reading room, and when I can once again immerse myself in that special atmosphere and the bustling books.

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