“I appreciate the opportunity to become part of each book's history.”

- Matt Scholtz '69

Matthew Scholtz '69 devoted his career to helping people discover their love of reading and books. Now, in retirement, he remains committed to this pursuit as he dedicates time to repairing and restoring books so families can enjoy them for generations to come.

His distinguished 40-year career as Chief Librarian of the Tillsonburg Public Library provided Matt with plenty of opportunities to hone his skills. “I repaired books while working at the library, but it was only after I retired that I was asked to do repairs and restorations for the public,” says Matt. “I got really interested in it. I started to build up my supplies and I began experimenting with different ways of doing things.”

He notes that he is a “practical repair worker,” not an archival specialist. “A specialist works to return a book to its original state so it can be preserved. My goal is to repair and restore books so they can be read and enjoyed.”

Each book presents unique challenges. Matt relies on special library tools like archival tape that won't yellow pages, but he also uses more common household items like sandpaper to gently remove residue. “Duct tape is one of the worst things I come across on books. It leaves behind a film that must be carefully sanded off to not tear delicate pages,” he explains. “Please do not use duct tape to try to hold a book together!”

Most commonly, Matt is asked to repair bibles and cookbooks. “Just because a book is old, it doesn't mean it has monetary value,” says Matt. “However, the books I receive have sentimental value. In many cases, they have already been passed from one generation to another.”

When he works on a book, Matt knows he will not be returning it to the owner in its original condition. “Every time someone reads a book or even handles it, they leave an imprint on it like a historical marker,” explains Matt. “I don't always remove handwriting in margins, watermarks from spilled drinks, or even forgotten bookmarks. Those are memories of loved ones who held the book in the past. Those marks contribute to why the book is sentimental. That handwriting in a cookbook may be the last preserved writing of a loved one or perhaps even the secret ingredient of a family recipe!”

(image: The Wizard of Oz)

Matt's work recently received media attention as he was tasked with restoring a first edition of The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum for a family who has owned the novel since it was printed in 1900. It is one of 10,000 first-edition copies.

The first step of the restoration process is an inventory of the pages. Matt handles each page individually, working from the middle of the novel outwards to the cover. It took approximately two months to complete the restoration of the 230-page copy of The Wizard of Oz. Matt is pleased knowing that the owners have no plans to sell the book. Instead, they will pass it on to their children and grandchildren so it can be read and enjoyed for many years to come.

When he's not repairing books or tackling his “honey-do” list, Matt is an avid reader. “People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks was such an inspiration to me,” he says. “Reading it made me feel that I'm doing the right thing with these books. I appreciate the opportunity to become part of each book's history.”

Book Tips from Matt

Books are meant to be used and enjoyed, not stored away in attics or basements where they usually become compromised. Glue dries out, pages become loose, and paper starts to wilt.

Any large books or books with sentimental and/or monetary value should be stored horizontally. Shelving books vertically can cause the spine to degrade and damage the book over time.

Before reading a new book, warm it up! Open and close the book alternating between the front and the back while working your way to the centre pages. Don't crack the spine!

If you have a favourite book that needs repairs or want more information about Matt's services visit www.tillsonburgalbum.com/bookrepairs/.