On Monday, February 25th, walking back from the Union with "Academic Librarian A," I was intrigued to see a series of myserious white hashmarks on the side of Malpass Library. See below.



Using knowledge I gained during library school, I was able to identify the hash marks as a code of some kind.

"But not the Dewey Decimal Code," said Academic Librarian A, who had also been to library school (but not the same one).

"Assuredly not," I said, "but what kind of code? And why the devil here?"

Academic Librarian A was silent a moment, processing information at what was once conservatively estimated by a school chum as a "gabillion miles per hour." A, then turned and looked at me, and said, with steely formality, "Port Allen."

"I thought as much."

The Port Allen Protocol was developed in Port Allen, Louisiana by Gwyn Jahns, head librarian at the Port Allen Center for the Study of UFOs. It was Jahns' belief that UFOs would be attracted by libraries and librarians. "No one would notice an alien on the staff of a library," she famously said at a meeting of the faculty at Long State University Library, adding "Any one of you could be aliens and, from where I am standing, it looks like many of you probably are." She then abruptly left the room. It was a few weeks later that the Port Allen Protocol was published in the Proceedings of the Port Allen Center for UFOs." The Protocol, as it's known, is a detailed set of instructions for decoding messages left by aliens on the walls of libraries. "No one," Jahns wrote, "ever looks at the walls of a library. You can put anything there, absolutely anything, and no one, absolutely no one, will ever notice. It's perfect for THEM." The essay ended with its famous appeal, "Search the walls! Search the walls! "

Many in the library community dismissed Jahns, but a few of us thought there might be something to what she said. We had looked at the walls of libraries and were astonished at what we found there. With my own eyes I had seen a bizarre lime green mold (a cryptozoan?) ten feet across in the shape of Nebraska on a library wall. It made a faint cooing sound in the afternoon. A Van Gogh, stolen from Leipzig in 1925, was famously recovered from a wall of the Prairie State Library, where it had hung for seventy years. And had not the poets written, "The writings of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls?" If so, what might not be written on the walls of libraries?

And so we waited and watched.

Last Thursday morning in the Mary Lou Kent room, a few of us noted that "UFO Landing Pad," had been scribbled onto a sheet of poster paper diagramming the library's floor plan. Most people at the meeting thought it a lark. A couple of us raised our eyebrows.

And now, Academic Librarian A and I confronted what we knew to be an alien message on the walls.

It took 13 hours of intense number crunching and a few calls to a small town outside of State College, Pennsylvania where the reclusive Jahns had holed up, but we broke the code. The message was so direct, so startling, and yet ambiguous, we had to share it with you. Below is the picture above after undergoing an enhancement process.


"Land Now!" Is it a plea for help? A command to begin the long feared (and by some among us, "long awaited") invasion? Was the message received? I have my suspicions. I have long had them. I have many questions. I have no sure answer. I can only advise you, in the words of Jahns, "Search the walls! Search the walls!"