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The Man Who Doesn't Judge Books By Their Covers, But Knows How To Heal Them

Gabriel Spitzer
Donald Vass in his book mendary, inside the King County Library System's Administrative Building in Issaquah, WA.

This story originally aired on December 16, 2017.

Any parent of more than one child will tell you that they have no favorites. They will tell you that the well from which love is drawn has no bottom. 

This is what Donald Vass would say about books.

"I sense a type of universal voice coming from all of these books. And often when I open a book and my eyes will land upon a set of words or a sentence, a passage that will speak to me. And sometimes, that will speak to me at a moment when I very much need it," says Vass.

Vass finds this to be true of all kinds of books. 

Vass is the book mender for the King County Public Library System. His mendery, or workshop, is located in Issaquah, WA. This is where up to 200 books enter Vass's workshop each week with damaged pages and spines, and exit in better shape than they were when first published. 

There aren't many people like Vass, whose sole job is to repair books for a public library system. It has taken him decades to learn the craft.

In this story, Sound Effect Host Gabriel Spitzer visits Vass in his mendery. Their conversation begins with the technical aspects of book repair, which have not changed much over hundreds of years. Then, they get a bit more philosophical.

After hearing what Vass has to say about books, you may not view the books sitting unopened on your shelf in quite the same way as before. 

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.
Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.