The Odious Wednesday Volunteer: The Bitch is Back.

This is a photo of the charity shop that I co-manage here on the north shore of Long Island, selling used books for the benefit of our local library. It is a one-room, 300-sq. foot parlor of a house built in 1820, and it’s operated under the aegis of The Friends of the Library. We are open 18 hours a week, from Tuesday to Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.

Oh, lordy, you cannot believe the drama.

To catch you up with as few words as possible, my co-manger and I told our Wednesday volunteer that we had replaced her with a new Wednesday volunteer who was more reliable and much, much less creepy.

Old Wednesday volunteer did not take it well. First, she tried to arrange a meeting between us, the president of the Friends of the Library, and the Director of the library. I have quoted her hilariously illiterate email in my blog of May 2, I Got Cat Class and I Got Cat Style. Since I and my co-manager both refused to attend this pow-wow, she cancelled the meeting in a huff and called me, among other things, “delusional”.

It seems that, since then, Old Wednesday volunteer has been stewing about the situation because last week she sent an email to every board member of The Friends of the Library, to the Director and head librarians of the Library, AND to the Board of Trustees of the Library, proposing an amendment to the by-laws of the Friends of the Library. This is a paste and copy of her email:

Any grievance by any volunteer or library personnel 

Should be brought before the main board of directors or the friends of the library.No volunteers or employee has the right to make a decision that ultimately falls under the jurisdiction of the main board or The Friends of the Bryant Library.

Disregarding the weirdness of her random punctuation, arbitrary capitalizations, misuse of legalistic jargon, and imprecise wording (who/what the hell is “the main board of directors”??), Old Wednesday volunteer does not understand that the business of The Friends of the Library has nothing to do with the library itself or its trustees. Likewise, The Friends have no business making policy that involves the library itself or its trustees.

The purpose of Old Wednesday volunteer’s amendment, obviously, is for her to institute a process whereby the decision to fire her from the used book store can be overturned by a “grievance” process that involves the full membership of the Friends of the Library and, apparently, the library staff and its trustees.

*Sigh* Dealing with this kind of stupidity is like punching a tar baby.

Nevertheless, I punched back any way, and wrote a rebuttal and sent it Reply To All. Everyone in The Friends, the library staff, and the trustees got it. I won’t quote it here — it’s rather wordy — but I will  cut and paste it to the bottom of this post if you want to read it.

Naturally, heated opinions of this amendment, of me, and of Old Wednesday volunteer, are flying back and forth amongst the Friends; the poor folks in the library and the innocent trustees are staying out of it, as they should since they were dragged into it only by the idiocy of Old Wednesday volunteer in the first place.

The show down comes at the next Friends meeting on June 4.

There Will Be Blood. I hope.

Back at the used book store, where I report on the oddities that come our way from the donations that we receive from the community, we got this last week:

The book on the left was a donation. The book on the right is my own copy of the authorized Potter publication.

Beatrix Potter’s stories are all in the public domain so it’s OK to re-print the text. It is not, however, OK to use her illustrations, so this “new” version copied the Beatrix Potter’s original illustrations.

This is the strangest thing.

Beatrix Potter’s original The Tale of Benjamin Bunny had 27 illustrations. The “new” version has only 7, but they are, as you can see, a stroke-by-stroke knock off.

This got me thinking about art. It’s obvious, looking at this pitiful illustrations and any place else where you find art that has been knocked-off/copied/re-hashed/derived by a second-rate hacks that the original stuff has a luminosity and soul that can not be replicated.

I think it’s a necessary step in one’s artistic development to copy the genius work that went before, but only as instruction, only as a way to educate one’s self of the “tricks” and quirks and untouchable brilliance of the Greats.

But here, in this re-print of Benjamin Bunny, I don’t understand the point. We already have the superb original illustrations for sale, easy to find in any bookstore. Why would any one want to buy the knock-off? Why would any one want to look at the haggard, pale, bloodless, puny reflection of the original?

Why would you listen to a Beatle tribute band when you can easily listen to real Beatles records? Why would you go to a store to look at a Thomas Kinkade painting when you can go to a museum and look at a Vermeer? Why would you eat Taco Bell when there’s a taqueria down the street?

Life is mysterious.

We also got this in:
It’s not a good book. But it’s interesting to me because of the note that I found, written on the inside cover:

If you want to read it you can click onto the photo to enlarge it…but I don’t recommend it. It is very rambling (People! Do a rough draft before you commit your words to a book!!) and repetitive, but it’s alive note to Amy from her husband of one year, Adam. Adam loves Amy; or, at least Adam loved Amy as of their first wedding anniversary on Sept. 1, 2002.

These were also tucked inside the book:

Amy gave Adam three cards on their first wedding anniversary, and she wrote the usual pitter patter about how happy she is that Adam is her husband yadda yadda yadda.

Did Amy or Adam ever think that, a mere 18 years later, their notes professing undying love would be dropped off — tossed, like; dumped — so unceremoniously at a used book store? Poor kids. I hope nothing really terrible happened to them, and that they just grew apart, like people do, and found that their true selves did not mesh after all and Adam is now following his passion as a civil war re-enactor and Amy is pursuing her calling as a dog food taster. I wish them the best.

There must have been something in the ether this week because in another donation of books, I found this:

I found this card inside what I assume was the wedding gift: a facsimile of The Book of Kells.

For those who don’t know, The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament from approx. 800 CE, hand-painted by monks in Britain or Ireland. It is on display in Dublin, in a very dreary corner of Trinity College. I would show you the photo I took of the book, but for some reason my computer has crapped out and I can’t fetch any more pix from iPhoto. But The Book of Kells is creepy.

The note inside the facsimile of The Book of Kells, signed by the same hand that signed the wedding card, alerted the newlyweds of the high quality of the reproductions in this faux The Book of Kells, and advised them that some of the larger repros can be removed from the book and would look very nice framed and hung on living room walls.

Yeah, I thought the same thing: Weird.

The task of sorting through great quantities of second-hand books can get depressing, so every once in a while I try to lift my spirits above the waste and sadness of this world’s ample supply of dreadful, ugly, battered, unwanted and unloved books. I do this by selecting, from an almost unlimited choice, the week’s Most Boring Book.

And here, for you, Dear Readers, is this week’s Most Boring Book:

For the coffee table, this book is 255 pages, weighs 4 pounds, was published in 1991, and cost $46 when it was new. As the title so eloquently hints, it’s about beds.

I think the technical term for this kind of book is vanity project. The proof is in the author photo:

Trust me on this. The world did not need a book about beds in 1991, or ever.

The writing, O, lordy, the writing. . .

I have a friend who can’t find a publisher for his fabulous book about the 20 years he has been a regular at his Paris cafe, but a book about beds did?!?!

That’s all I got for you this week, Dear Ones. My answer to the odious Wednesday volunteer’s email (at the top of this blog post) follows, but feel free to end our weekly visit here, taking with you my wishes for an authentically happy weekend. May all your Benjamin Bunnies, all your love letters, all your hopes and dreams and tacos be the real thing.

XXOO

****

Reply to the odious Wednesday volunteer and everyone else on her extensive email list.

Hi Everyone –

Concerning this proposal to include a  “grievance” process in the new by-laws of The Friends of Bryant Library, I would like to respond.

“Grievance” is a legal term requiring specific formalities and obligations re: civil or criminal procedures between litigants.

Judging by the subsequent language in this text that refers to “library personnel”;  “employee”; and “jurisdiction”, I assume that the term “grievance” is, here, being used legalistically (as noted above), specifically in relation to issues between employers and employees;  I also assume that the term “the main board of directors” refers to the Board of Trustees of the Bryant Library (the text is very imprecise so I’m doing my best to deduce meaning).

I would like to remind the Friends that The Bryant Library and the Board of Trustees of The Bryant Library are separate entities, and each is distinct and apart from each other, and apart and distinct from The Friends of Bryant Library.  Thus, any “grievance” issues regarding the employees, trustees, volunteers, board members, and/or administrators (“library personnel”) of The Bryant Library and/or its Board of Trustees, have nothing whatsoever to do with The Friends of Bryant Library. And, vice-versa: There is nothing that The Bryant Library and/or its Board of Trustees can do to effect any policy or action within the functions of The Friends of Bryant Library. In fact, to have presumed otherwise shows a shocking ignorance of the mission, purpose, and basic regulatory and juridical constraints of The Friends of Bryant Library.

Thus, it would be inappropriate and certainly illegal for The Friends of Bryant Library to insert themselves into any “grievance” process regarding the employees, trustees, volunteers, board members, and/or administrators (“library personnel”) under the “jurisdiction” of The Bryant Library or its Board of Trustees.  It would also be ridiculous to involve any employee, trustee, volunteer, board member, and/or administrator (“library personnel”) of The Bryant Library and/or its Board of Trustees with a “grievance” within The Friends of Bryant Library.

But perhaps I am being too persnickety in my interpretation of this missive. It is, as you can see, an incoherent document. Maybe “grievance” is, here, being used in its quotidian context, as merely the complaint of a real or imagined slight.

If so, it is my opinion that creating a formal process for airing personality clashes among various volunteers of The Friends of Bryant Library is too petty and tedious a process to be included in this organization’s by-laws or functions.

However, should there be a Friend of Bryant Library who is frothing at the mouth to settle trivial scores, I can recommend a tried-and-true arena: Thunderdome.

In conclusion:

Having shown that The Friends of Bryant Library 501 ( c ) (3) is under no obligation (indeed, is prohibitedfrom doing so) to address any “grievance” within The Bryant Library  and/or The Board of Trustees of The Bryant Library; and vice-versa; and having stated my objections to The Friends of Bryant Library creating a process for addressing any “grievance”( in its frivolous “hurt feelings” definition), I recommend that no such language in any form be included in the by-laws of the Friends of Bryant Library.

Respectfully,

Vivian Swift

 

 

10 Comments, RSS

  1. Marilyn May 31, 2019 @ 5:41 pm

    Oh the travails of bookstore grievances and poor knock-offs! Glad it is you and not me involved. Good luck with the finality of it all soon, then back to the kitties.

  2. Megan May 31, 2019 @ 7:56 pm

    What a truly strange place the world is. I have to agree with you about the luminous quality of Beatrix Potters art, I visited Hill top Farm in the 1990 and while I was very familiar with her work I was stopped in my tracks by the luminous quality of her watercolours. They are so wonderful and her books do not do them justice, and why in the world you would want to make an inferior ‘knock off’ is beyond my thinking. I’m sorry there is trouble in the volunteering community, it’s not new and not going anywhere soon. Turn up for work at the appointed time, do your best, be cheerful and do what the job requires. Simple surely? People have too much time on their hands and it leads to trouble. Hope the felines are all enjoying spring and not being bothered by the birds too much. Last weeks comment went AWOL so fingers crossed.

  3. Susan May 31, 2019 @ 9:42 pm

    I, too, would rather purchase the real deal vs. a knock off. That said, there is a market for anything and many people are not very discerning. It appears that old Wednesday volunteer is determined to push her cause. Like a candle, in time, she will burn herself out. Sooner rather than later. She needs to find a hobby.

  4. Steve June 1, 2019 @ 9:04 am

    Oh, Amy and Adam. I hope nothing bad happened to them! That’s so mysterious.

    It’s amazing how much drama working for a volunteer organization can entail! Poor you!

  5. jeanie June 1, 2019 @ 10:10 am

    Yup. We all learn to draw and paint by copying to get the feel of materials and such. And sure, if you want to copy for your own personal use, have at it. But to include in a book? Please, no! If you are to illustrate a book, at least make them your own illustrations! And Beatrix. She’s just her own wonderful artist. Argh.

    Wednesday needs to get a life. And speaking as one who volunteers, who would want to volunteer at an organization that doesn’t want you volunteering? It can’t be a good experience for her, either… can you imagine being married to this woman? Perhaps she should open her own bookstore or organization and be queen.

  6. Susie June 1, 2019 @ 11:49 am

    I really don’t wish your pain to be prolonged, but please do not go gentle into that good night old Wednesday volunteer… I’m on summer vacation and I’d love this tale to be my beach read.

  7. Patricia June 1, 2019 @ 12:13 pm

    Do you want the old Wednesday volunteer to go away and shut up? Or do you want an ongoing battle of the bitches? If you want her to go away, find a way to make her feel respected and heard and acknowledged. Find some way to make her feel she “won”. Even if you choke on your own words.

    It’s not about being “right”. It’s NEVER about being “right”.

    If “right” were enough, Trump would never have been elected president…

  8. Kirra June 1, 2019 @ 3:23 pm

    Dear Vivian, thank you for including your email to everyone and the ex-Wednesday volunteer. I loved it! There are some seriously annoying people in this world and they deserve replies like this. Hope you win the battle on June 4th.

    The book about beds is amazing, how did that get published?! Seriously shit. Also don’t get the knock off Beatrix Potter book, the world is strange….

    All the best for Sunday and Monday, days of closure for the second hand bookshop.

  9. katharine fowle meleney June 3, 2019 @ 7:07 am

    Best of luck on the 4th! Meanwhile, distract yourself with this gal’s website: https://www.sublackwell.co.uk/fineartportfolio/
    Always fun to see how other people handle a medium that you work in. Wonder what you’d come up with if you used the Bed Book!

    • Vivian June 17, 2019 @ 12:03 pm

      Su Blackwell s work is quite a sweet way to re-purpose books. She’s very different than I am — I see that she likes to cut into the book and use the pages; very clever. Thank you for the link, Katherine.

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