Annual Library Mystery Event

Annual Library Mystery Event 

Every year during New Student Week, Gould Library hosts a library-wide mystery event. The event is designed to introduce new students to basic library resources in a fun, low-stakes manner.While the original format of the mystery event drew heavily from the board game Clue, increasing attendance made implementing a new format necessary. Information about the original format and clues are still available here.

In this event, the object of the game is to be the first team to successfully discover clues hidden around the library that lead to the location of a professor who has inexplicably gone missing. The clues lead the students to library resources they'll use as they progress in their studies (e.g. how to access eReserves, how to use LibGuides, where/how to find books). Each clue contains a piece of a cipher that when arranged correctly, point to the location of a book that will solve the mystery of the missing professor. The winning team is given a small prize, and treats are provided at the end of the event.

The Event (event details from 2015)

As the students enter, they are divided into teams of 6-8 players. Each team is given a folder with the following materials:

  • A map of the library, a pencil, and a page from the missing professor's notebook

Each team's journal page has the same clues, but in a random order to prevent a rush toward any given clue location. A sample notebook page looks like this:

Notebook Sample 

A narrator introduces the event, explains the rules, and instructs the students to return to the circulation desk once they have have the puzzle and discovered the professor's location.  The clues each group receives are listed below. Our mystery event features a cryptozoology theme, centered around Antarctica. Laurence M. Gould, the library's namesake, was an Antarctic explorer, and the library frequently references this history, notably with our penguin mascot.

Clue Grid

Professor's Notes Take Away Our ToDo
LibGuide In my Cryptozoology course guide, I will leave a cipher that will lead you to me. [Archivist's Note: see the guide] Cipher Put the cipher on the libguide. Make libguide live for fall
E-Reserves I put a clue in the ERESERVES readings for my Cryptozoology course. [Archivist Note: Find links for EReserves on the library's web site. Two passwords required. Log in with your Carleton username and password. The next E-Reserves password is always the four letter course code: CRYP.] Clue—Part 2 Put an article with part of call number (in similar style as 2012)
Study Room I have posted a page from Laurence McKinley Gould's journal that started me on my search. I added a clue to the page and left it in the study room. [Archivist's Note: So many study rooms in the library. I may have to check more than one or two or three to find the clue.] Clue—Part 3 Get the journal page with part of the clue, post it in three of the study rooms, Post other notes (ex. "Your clue is not here") in several other study rooms
Art in the Libe The library has a number of permanent and rotating exhibits. The Cabinet of Curiosities is the perfect place to leave another clue. Clue—Part 1 Put someone nearby so that we can make sure people aren't taking things
Books I have been spending a lot of time in browsing the shelf near the book Neanderthal (Mousterian) man. I decided to post a clue to the top shelf here. [Archivist's Note: Use CATALYST to find the call for the book. It's not necessary to take the book, just find where it is and look for the clue.] Clue—Part 4 Post clue up high and post someone to float around
Maps In my research, I have been looking at maps in the Pacific Northwest. [Archivist's Note: Maps are on the second floor. The USGS maps are organized by state. No need to take the map, just look for the clue.] Clue—Part 5 Post someone at the maps. Clue taped to Washington and Oregon drawers (USGS)
Archives There's a picture of the Geological Party after they passed the 150th Meridian in Antarctica on the wall of the archives. This is the clearest image we have of the unknown beast. I've affixed a clue to the back of the picture. [Archivist's Note: Wow! This is totally true. I've taken the clue off the picture and am keeping it in my desk.] Clue—Part 6 Nat and student will show the picture and give them the clue.

The clue locations all hold a piece of the final cipher, which is the call number of a book (we use one from our government documents collection.)

Our cipher (sans call number) looks like this:                                                         


A cipher section (with part of a call number) looks  like this:

Cipher sample 

Set Up

The week before the event, make certain that all clues are still accurate and that no changes need to be made. Print out the clues that will be placed around the library, and make sure that the book that contains the final clue has not been checked out. It is advisable to pull this item from the shelf until the day of the event to prevent any last-minute surprise check outs. Other advance preparations include preparing the team folders, and activating any electronic resources specific to the event (we have both a LibGuide and an eReserves section for the missing professor's fictional course).

An hour or two before the event, have staff members place clues around the library. This is a great opportunity to involve colleagues across library departments, since it is helpful to station library staff members throughout the library to help with directional questions as well as to make sure that all teams play fairly.


The most recent mystery event had a 150-200 student turnout. In past years, there was a cap to the number of students allowed to play, but the decision was made to let anyone interested join. The event has been moved to Thursday night to avoid any conflicts with other New Student Week events or the local Defeat of Jesse James Days celebration. There are no posters put up on campus advertising the event. All advertising comes from library staff involvement in New Student Week orientation events, as well as word of mouth endorsements from upperclassmen residence advisors and leaders.