Deciphering "wee old lady" library book code


Originally published at:


I do this on BoingBoing posts.



I was going to make an RFID reader to scan the library tags in mom’s books and keep a db list, but perhaps that’s over-engineering the problem?


OCD in the wild.


I think its more because the books are all much the same and its hard to remember if you have read them before.


I’m not suggesting one do this, but I suppose if you wanted to have some fun with the “wee old ladies” one could erase whatever codes you find in library books.

Just for fun, you understand.



So maybe its not a tagging system. To find out how good a book was, start at the end and look backwards for underlined page numbers.


They all have favorite authors that they trade through the grapevine and then work their way though them. (And they do look much the same.)

The Large Print section will have the highest concentration of these signs.


I wonder what their systems are for remembering what their systems are.


It would be interesting to see if the underlined page numbers are distributed from 1 to 12 or 1 to 31.



Seems to me that if the books are that hard to tell apart, one would do well to find better books to read.


Reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon of two middle aged women in a modern art museum. One says, “we’ve already done this room. I remember the fire extinguisher.”


I’m not going to begrudge the wee old ladies their literary comfort food. Who am I to deny them a new story of how [insert wee old lady given name here], serving her country as a [insert women’s homefront service role here], is swept off her feet by [insert service branch here] [insert rank here] [insert salt-of-the-earth manly surname here] before he ships out to the [insert British theatre of war] front, leaving her to fend off the approaches of that masher, the [insert cowardly or shady male shirker role] [insert Dickensian name connoting sliminess] while she anxiously awaits her true love’s return home?

[and with that, a new machine-learning wee-old-lady fiction generator is born. If printed out then one random page number should be circled]


So if you had a reason to want to prevent old ladies from checking out a particular title, you just copy every known code in the book and feel safe in knowing it will always be there for you. Or you could purchase a copy…

If I ever get my novels published, I’m going to guerilla insert them at libraries and bookstores just to get them out there.


The woman who pointed it out shrugged and went on her way, “just thought you should know”.

She left the library and dissolved into a pinkish mist.

Later analysis could not find her image on any surveillance tapes, except for a faint shimmer probably caused by the summer heat in the air-conditioned library.


I read somewhere about romance novels in libraries with seemingly random numbers penciled in the front that turned out to be ‘wee old ladies’ giving the numbers for the pages with, ahem, action.


Interview with a Librarian (6:26):


That’s Acheron you are talking about.

The elderly woman might have been Miss Havisham, but then, she usually makes an entrance, an prefers very fast cars.

On a second though, it might have been Acheron. He sometimes uses the disguise of an elderly woman…

Advice: Don’t approach. Call jurisfiction immediately.

Ah, shit, you are most likely already dead if you met him.