A librarian noticed a huge "mystery" taking place in the library when an elderly reader had a curious inquiry.
Georgia Saoirse, a social media and communications manager from Dundee, Scotland, tweeted her discovery of cryptic symbols etched on some book pages that turned out to be a special code employed by the elderly.
"A wee old women came in and said 'I've a question. Why does page 7 in all the books I take out have the 7 underlined in pen? It seems odd,' Saoirse wrote. "'What?' I say, thinking she might be a bit off her rocker. She showed me, and they did."
Sure enough, the number seven had a dash underneath it.
We're chatting now to @green_grainger who solved the secret library code of the "wee old women" of a Dundee library! https://t.co/LVHFVcAXRX— BBC Johnny I'Anson (@BBC Johnny I'Anson)1522951800.0
It wasn't the only book that had the suspicious slashes. With nothing to rely on but intuition, and maybe her penchant for watching too many horror movies, she started to wonder if a serial killer was in their midst.
I asked if she was doing it, she said she wasnt and showed me the new book she was getting out that she hadnt even had yet. It also had the 7 underlined! "I don't know, maybe someone really likes page 7?" I said, assuming of course that there is a serial killer in the library.
Saoirse did notice a pattern. The markings were apparent among a specific genre of books.
I checked some other books. Most didn't have it, but a lot in this genre did - they're "wee old women" books (romances set in wartime Britain etc). Lots of underlined 7s. The woman who pointed it out shrugged and went on her way, "just thought you should know."
She wondered about the significance of the number seven and what the dashes indicated. Alas, her manager returned from a break with an explanation and assured there was no serial killer, even though the suspected vandal is a literary slasher of sorts.
My manager came back from doing arts and crafts with some of the kids and I decide to tell her about the serial kil… https://t.co/4YQ6aMs6a6— Georgia | Saoirse (@Georgia | Saoirse)1522779638.0
With current technology keeping record of what gets checked out and returned, the elderly seem steadfast in their idiosyncratic method. Could they be mourning the loss of the card catalogue system?
Our computers do it automatically but many have been doing it since before that was possible, so Esther might under… https://t.co/9n3ShIA533— Georgia | Saoirse (@Georgia | Saoirse)1522779789.0
It’s quite clever really but now I’m dying to just underline page 7 of every new wee old women book we get in.— Georgia | Saoirse (@Georgia | Saoirse)1522779827.0
Now that the big mystery was solved, two points came to mind with one of them being a gripe about the code.
So, good news: there’s not a serial killer in the library whose MO include the number 7 and wartime romances. Bad n… https://t.co/sSTmoW0dcr— Georgia | Saoirse (@Georgia | Saoirse)1522780016.0
I'm now concerned that the amount of people enjoying this thread means there's going to be a new spate of readers u… https://t.co/GrZ1gGCfiR— Georgia | Saoirse (@Georgia | Saoirse)1522842183.0
Saoirse is a newbie, which could explain her obliviousness to the secret code.
(Also, I am new to the library job, hence why I hadn't seen it before! The library and our customers are great though 😊)— Georgia | Saoirse (@Georgia | Saoirse)1522842263.0
@green_grainger At the public library I used to work at, someone would use a Sharpie and put a black dot on the spi… https://t.co/BgrPh5LsnP— Jen (@Jen)1522857938.0
Her tweet reached viral status after reaching over 26 thousand likes. Some responded to share their familiarity with the unique ritual.
@green_grainger My Dad used to do this!! Every book he had read in our local library he circled page 10, which was… https://t.co/Pg0dgIzbg4— Las (@Las)1522843057.0
@green_grainger Used to work in libraries and all the old ladies had their own code - came in useful when they went… https://t.co/OL6pOdpwdn— Fionajay (@Fionajay)1522839920.0
@green_grainger I remember going to the library with my gran in Scotland in the 70s. She knew all the secret codes… https://t.co/jozWMFR42l— Lost Monster (@Lost Monster)1522857692.0
@green_grainger My mum used to put a dot on page 50.— Rob Spence (@Rob Spence)1522861855.0
Saoirse updated followers on the system's recent upgrade.
@Fionajay12 Our systems now pop up to say "last borrowed by customer on [x date]" when we scan it - very handy so w… https://t.co/970hraLMmS— Georgia | Saoirse (@Georgia | Saoirse)1522840108.0
@leslie_kuo @green_grainger I worked in the same library, we already had this 20 years ago, as a service to the cus… https://t.co/5ZD7k1RUux— goldendoodle (@goldendoodle)1522855721.0
@sarcocornia @leslie_kuo I actually don't know if people can opt out now (pretty new - will have to ask when I'm ne… https://t.co/Cfic3lNwCc— Georgia | Saoirse (@Georgia | Saoirse)1522859724.0
The process of archiving book traffic in the U.S. slightly differs from the protocol in Scotland.
@green_grainger @sarcocornia @leslie_kuo I'm in the US at a university library, and--although we don't retain this… https://t.co/Wd1GbJ8w8I— Stewart C Baker (@Stewart C Baker)1522861168.0
@stewartcbaker @green_grainger @sarcocornia @leslie_kuo The librarians I know in the US are VERY protective of the… https://t.co/sy6rKqBBH9— Scott Boone (@Scott Boone)1522862746.0
@auntiemarialani @Writerinlaw @stewartcbaker @sarcocornia @leslie_kuo We can wipe data by customer’s request, and d… https://t.co/Evi1McyEr7— Georgia | Saoirse (@Georgia | Saoirse)1522865281.0
One user admired the old tradition.
@green_grainger @sarcocornia @leslie_kuo I love your thread, it makes me happy to think of people happily borrowing… https://t.co/3QQq2QTVmF— M (@M)1522867682.0
Looks like the secret practice isn't going away anytime soon. The page seven vandal has returned!
Just had another victim of the page 7 vandal returned!!! (Now checking every book that looks like it might be their… https://t.co/CIG6JW3fTm— Georgia | Saoirse (@Georgia | Saoirse)1522851263.0