The University of New Mexico Centennial Library has created the Mystery Room series to invoke interest and educate library users about its resources and services.

The purpose of the two-event series is to educate new students on how to find information and locate library resources on specific topics, time periods and important scholars. There will be one on Sept. 20 and Oct. 4.

“In the Mystery Room, students find out what happened to a missing scholar by solving puzzles and finding clues. During the game they’ll learn about the way information is presented as well as get to know some of UNM’s librarians and meet other students,” said the event organizer Glenn Koelling, who is an assistant professor and learning service librarian.

Koelling said the activity would be a learning experience outside of formal classroom settings. Alyssa Russo, a learning services librarian at UNM, who is also engaged in organizing the Mystery Room, said the event was aimed at combining learning with fun.

“The purpose of the Mystery Room is to gamify library instruction and to introduce students to information formats commonly used in college-level research projects,” Russo said. “Participants will have some fun while they get to know librarians and library spaces available on campus.”

The event is open to all, but new students will specifically benefit by learning how to use the campus libraries. According to Koelling the Mystery Room series is similar to escape rooms, and her and Russo wanted to use this idea in an educational setting. Russo said the idea of a mystery room is a unique way of engaging students.

Highlighting benefits of the event for students, Russo said besides learning, it will also help forge a sense of community among the students.

“Students leave the Mystery Room with some experience interacting with and distinguishing between information formats. Students also make connections with their teammates to build a sense of community here on campus,” Russo said.

Being a non-competitive event, Mystery Room does not have winners and losers in the traditional sense. Koelling said this is a team effort and all students will receive a prize at the end.

The organizers have avoided any expenditure on supplies by putting into use the recyclable waste of the library.

“We’re pretty thrifty, so we scrounged a lot of things that were going to be discarded or recycled in the library,” Koelling said. “The icing on the cake, though, was the grant we received from the New Mexico Library Foundation that allowed us to purchase our props. Besides that we just spent time and brainpower.”

There is no precedent of employing non-traditional strategies at UNM libraries to educate library users about its resources in the past — this is the first workshop of its kind.

She said the activity has been trial tested and the response was promising.

“For the Mystery Room, we’ve done a trial run that was pretty great. We’re really looking forward to doing the whole thing,” Koelling said.

Registration for both Mystery Rooms is still open and anyone interested in participating may register online.

Ahmad Yar Ranjha is a freelance news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at