Engaging Methuen Readers

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Free Online Concert Series: America’s “Great Organ” Perseveres

Pandemic or no, the Methuen Memorial Music Hall continues to have it’s annual Wednesday evening concert series featuring its Great Organ.  This year, due to the novel coronavirus, the series will be streaming from the MMMH’s YouTube channel.

When the Great Organ, shipped from Germany at great peril during the Civil War, had its inauguration concert in the Boston Music Hall in 1863, it was considered a celebrated musical event throughout the country.  This beautiful, gleaming organ was indeed great; having some 6,000 pipes, it was then the largest concert organ in America.  The variables of changing times and maintenance issues led to a decline in the organ’s fortunes.  In 1897, Edward Frances Searles, a railroad magnate from Methuen, MA, bought the neglected organ ‘for a song’ and moved it to Methuen where he had a remarkable barrel-vaulted concert hall built for the purpose of preserving the sounds of this great American treasure.

Since 1947, the Trustees of the Methuen Memorial Music Hall have shared this sonorous object of pride with the community through tours and their annual Organ Recital Series.  This year’s series, running through August 26th,  will be streamed live through YouTube.  Don’t miss out on this opportunity to hear the majestic sounds of the Great Organ and to learn about its curious history!  The music must go on!

For more information on the concert series, the remarkable history of the Organ and the Building, or to donate to this organization, see the MMMH website.

If you are a Massachusetts library patron, you may have free access to The Boston Globe and their recent (6/14/20) article on Methuen’s Great Organ, “Now Streaming From Methuen:  a treasured organ with nine lives” (Jeremy Eichler), through our online database.


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Find the Library At Your Place!

Every year, in the third week of April, we in library land invite you to celebrate National Library Week with us.   The novel coronavirus has caused libraries to close their physical buildings on the recommendation of public health officials and the American Library Association (ALA), but we remain open for business online and continue to support our communities with resources, services and programs.

The Nevins Library has continued our services with an active social media feed (you can follow us on facebook, twitter, instagram, and pinterest); free online access to e-books, audio, and magazines through Libby (Overdrive) and free downloadable music from Freegal.   Some of the new databases we’ve added into our arsenal of resources you can access from home are:  Miss Humblebee’s Academy, an interactive kindergarten-readiness program; High School (Gale In Context)  to support student learning, papers, projects, and presentations; Ancestry From Home, perfect for anyone doing genealogy research; and now at-home access to The New York Times newspaper.

Don’t know what to read?  Try our “What Should I Read Next?” readers’ advisory service or check out our A Book A Day Tumblr for suggestions.  For browse-able collections, look through Libby (ebook and eaudio)NovelistPlus (fiction and nonfiction), the Audio Book Cloud (available through August 31, 2020), and the Romance Book Cloud for those addictive, steamy romances.

For the kiddos, our delightful children’s crew have put together some fun virtual storytimes.  So kids and parents, please continue to sing and read along with us!

If you don’t already have a library card and would like to access these resources, please contact Circulation Services and they will create a temporary card for you.

Thank you to all our library supporters!  We can’t wait to see you again and welcome you back to our physical building.  Until then, continue to use all of our virtual resources and stay in touch!



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Let there be music!


Freegal Music

Let there be music:  dance, scream it out, or just chill with the tunes…

Freegal music has upgraded Merrimack Valley Library Consortium member’s Freegal Music accounts to 24 hour-per-day streaming at no cost.

With your library card you can set up a Freegal Music account and search for songs and listen to a playlist all day if you care to.  If you don’t have a library card, you can email for a temporary card good through the end of September 2020.

Heart made of musical icons | Free Vector

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Pairing books and music

There are lots of good articles out there pairing books and music. The Guardian has one. So do BookRiot and Flavorwire. But now we have one of our own, and it’s the best!


The Stand by Stephen King / “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds


Stephen King is a notorious music aficionado, and he often adds soundtracks to his books in the form of music within the story. However, even when he doesn’t, his dark, evocative tales of terror inspire certain moods. The Stand is the tale of a plague and the supernatural threat that follows in the form of Randall Flagg, embodiment of all human evil. Flagg is a master at convincing mortals to bargain away their souls in exchange for luxuries or security, and as such, strongly evokes the haunting melody “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Listen and tremble.



The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath / “Where Is My Mind” by the Pixies


“Where Is My Mind” is best known for being the theme song to Fight Club, the nineties movie about men fighting masculinity by fighting other men and…yeah, it kind of breaks down once you start to think about it. Personally, I think it would have been a much better pairing with The Bell Jar, where Plath’s protagonist struggles against her own looming insanity.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood / “Evelyn” by Kim Tillman and Silent Film


Chronicling both the aftermath of a disaster and a twisted love triangle involving genetic engineering, Oryx and Crake will rock you a little. What does it mean to be human when humanity can build itself better? Can we engineer away our baser urges and destructive instincts? Protagonist Crake thinks so, but, of course, the reader – and Kim Tillman – may be less optimistic by the end.

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon / “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay


Most people don’t read Decline these days unless they have to for a class, and that’s a shame. There’s a reason it’s a classic! Rome was the original blueprint for Western society, and we basically still follow their model. Reading about it can be…well, a little spooky. “Viva la Vida” could broadly apply to French, British, or American imperial ambitions, but it all comes down to Rome in the end.






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Oh, the things you can do with a library card!


Everyone can take advantage of our public library’s resources by using our wi-fi internet access or computers, browsing our collections or attending a program.

With a library card, you get added benefits…not only can you check out books, magazines, DVDs, games, and other multimedia materials, you can also access our digital content.

Our digital resources include such gems as:

Lost your card?  Get a *free* replacement card at the Nevins Library during the month of September 2016.

Oh, and did we mention that with your library card you can also check out museum passes?  These passes will save you money on admissions to many of greater Boston area’s best museum’s and attractions, including:

  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Boston’s Children’s Musuem
  • Boston Harbor Islands Ferry Pass
  • Lowell Spinner’s
  • Merrimack Repertory Theatre
  • Museum of Science
  • New England Aquarium
  • New England State Parks Parking Pass
  • Zoo New England
  • Peabody Essex Museum
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Musuem
  • and many more!  Inquire at the main desk.

If we do say so ourselves, happiness is a well-used library card! 🙂




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The Library, Comic Books, and Punk Rock


Punk. Comics. Punk and comics. Punk and comics and angsty teens who are now well-balanced adults who write comics about being angsty punk teens. It’s all kind of a perfect fit. What more needs to be said? Nothing. Go read.

Image of itemPunk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy

It’s a rocket-fueled ride, an allegory that seems entirely plausible in our hyped-up reality TV world. A huge media corporation clones Jesus from the Shroud of Turin and proceeds to run a live reality TV show around his life. As you might expect, teenaged J2 develops a little bit of an anger issue. Luckily, there are musical ways to take care of anger, and they have been known, on occasion, to change the world.



Punk Rock and Trailer Parks by Derf Backderf

From the auteur behind My Friend Dahmer comes a nostalgic look at growing up punk. Otto is a Loser. Not just a loser, but a capital-L Loser high school band dork who nobody wants to be around, despite his growth spurt. He lives in a trailer park and gets beaten up by bullies half his size. But that’s all about to change! When he’s exposed to Wendy O., Klaus Nomi, and the Ramones firsthand, Otto will transform from weird kid to punk adult living on the edge of the 1970s music scene.


Image of itemBumperhead by Gilbert Hernandez

Coming on the heels of Gilbert Hernandez’s Marble Season, this book follows Bobby as he navigates through – or, rather, floats through – his teenage years. Friendships, relationships, musical styles, and life itself flows on with Bobby riding the current, never plotting his own course or noticing as opportunity passes him by.



Cut My Hair by Jamie S. Rich

If Catcher in the Rye took place in history, then Holden Caulfield would have been a punk. Mason is another blank slate, but unlike Beto Hernandez’s Bobby, Rich’s protagonist may have a chance to capture something more meaningful: a vision of who he really wants to be. That may involve a sepcial girl, a raucous band, and a punk rock coming of age story.



Image of itemHopeless Savages by Jen Van Meter

What happens when punks grow up? They move to the suburbs and have kids, of course! But they never, ever abandon their identity. The children of Dirk Hopeless and Nikki Strange grow up, and remain, resolutely punk. (Except Rat, who betrays his family by going corporate. Where did they go wrong?) As they navigate the globe, getting into trouble and living life to the hilt, you’ll know that punk isn’t dead: it’s just grown up!

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An Enchanting Summer Evening @ Nevins Library

The Nevins Library invites you to

Join us in the Garden for a night

with Andy & Judy, a Boston area folk duo,

as they play popular folk covers as well as their original songs.  

Tuesday July 19th,  6:30-7:30pm

This will be a fun event for the entire family!  Before the concert, take the kids on a storytime walk around the library grounds to read about the funny antics of a family of ducks and a hairy companion in the picture book Do Like a Duck Does by Judy Hindley.  Then, sit back and enjoy the music, flowers, and whimsical engravings in our magical Children’s Garden.

* Rain location will be in the Great Hall *


Bowie in Books

Today, we mourn the passage of the great David Bowie. The best commentators in the world have already weighed in on the impact of this incredible musician and performer, but we at Nevins Library would like to take a minute and recognize him as a literature hound. An avid reader, Bowie was a fan of William Burroughs, George Orwell, and Heinrich Harrer, and much of his work bore a debt to Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Niezsche. What we’re saying is that David Bowie was smart and he liked books. Without any more ado, here are just a few of the songs that reflect the legendary artist’s literary tastes.


They’ll split your pretty cranium and fill it full of air/And tell that you’re eighty, but brother, you won’t care/Beware the savage jaw of 1984.

Did you know that Bowie intended to write a musical based on George Orwell’s classic 1984? He never managed to pull it off (Orwell’s widow objected) but if you listen to his 1974 album “Diamond Dogs,” you’ll catch references to Orwell’s most famous dystopian work in the songs Big Brother, 1984, and We Are the Dead.

Oh! You Pretty Things

Look out my window and what do I see/A crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me/All the nightmares came today/And it looks as though they’re here to stay.

One prevailing rumor suggests that this song was inspired by Ayn Rand’s classic Anthem. Since David is “thinking about a world to come/Where the books were found by the golden ones,” this seems possible. However, it seems at least as likely – or more so – that the lyrics reference the works of Aleister Crowley, a British occultist; and Friedrich Nietzsche, an influential philosopher.

Silly Boy Blue

Mountains of Lhasa are feeling the rain/People are walking the Botella lanes/Preacher takes the school/One boy breaks a rule/Silly Boy Blue, silly Boy Blue.

When David Bowie was 19, he was inspired by the works of Jack Kerouac to become a Buddhist. But it was Heinrich Harrer’s book, Seven Years in Tibet, that inspired this song, which was one of the pop artist’s firsts.

The Man Who Sold the World

Though many people think of this as a Nirvana song, it’s actually a cover of Bowie. Here is the first verse:

We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when/Although I wasn’t there, he said I was his friend/Which came as some surprise I spoke into his eyes/I thought you died alone, a long long time ago.

And here is the first stanza of Hughes Mearns’ 1899 poem “Antigonish:”

Yesterday, upon the stair,/I met a man who wasn’t there./He wasn’t there again today,/I wish, I wish he’d go away…

If you notice a few parallels, that’s because Mearns inspired Bowie to write this song!

If this list has you wishing that you could listen to some David Bowie right now, be sure to check out his discography. Many of his albums are available through Nevins or the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium:

Ever the showman, David Bowie also appeared in a number of films. Check these out for a sample of his ouvre:


Does Whatever a Spider Can: Spider-Man’s Anniversary

On this day in 1962 a Spider-Star was born! Spider-Man debuted in issue #15 of Amazing Fantasy, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. For those of you not in the know, Spider-Man was introduced as nerdy teen, Peter Parker, who was bitten by a radioactive spider and gained the speed and agility associated with spiders. Donning a red and blue costume, Spider-Man saves the day using his web-slinging and “Spidey-senses”.

Today Spider-Man is known in practically every American home, and continues to be a hero both on the comic pages and off. Here are some different ways to enjoy Spider-Man’s story today.

2111913Here Comes Spider-Man: For younger readers just getting to know the Friendly, Neighborhood Spider-Man, this book introduces the webslinger and some of the most menacing villains he’s faced. From Doctor Octopus to the Sandman, Spider-Man faces them all

Ultimate Spider-Man: For more mature readers, we have the Marvel comics featuring Spider-Man as 105920collected in this series. Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley bring Peter Parker back to print as he figures out his newly developed powers and copes with the death of his Uncle Ben.

Phineas & Ferb – Mission Marvel: In an epic crossover event, Spider-Man, along with other Marvel heroes, team up with Phineas and Ferb to save Danville. Red Skull, Whiplash, Venom and M.O.D.O.K. have teamed up with Dr. Doofenshmirtz to defeat the heroes once and for all. This is a new step for Spider-Man and the Marvel world into the wider Disney franchise.

Spider-Man: 2002 saw Spider-Man up on the big screen for the first time. Amidst stellar CGI, Tobey Maguire brings the origin of Peter Parker’s Spider-Man to life. The movie was followed up by two sequels and eventually a reboot with Andrew Garfield. See where the movie franchise began or revisit the movie that started it all!

Spider-Man – Turn Off the Dark: Spider-Man has reached across all sorts of media, including a live stage production. In 2011 Spider-Man swung on to Broadway to the music of U2’s Bono. While the show opened amidst mixed reviews, the music is something to experience.

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Troubadours & Troublemakers

On Thursday July 30th at 7pm, Kevin Comtois will be coming by the Nevins Memorial Library to talk about three very important singers whose music and politics were influential in the growing American music scene.

This presentation will examine three of the greatest protest singers of the twentieth century: Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan. Using recorded music, film clips and still images, we will take an American journey through history and geography. We will start by using music to examine the social and economic conditions of the Great Depression as we follow Woody Guthrie through the Dust Bowl. We will then travel across the United States as Woody works his way to New York City where we meet Peter Seeger. We’ll leave Woody to follow the travels of Pete as he sings his way through the American heartland, World War II, McCarthyism, the Civil Rights movement and the 1950s folk revival where we meet Bob Dylan. We will then leave Pete to examine Dylan’s songs that outlines the social and political conditions in the 60s. We will examine Dylan’s evolution to rock and roll and end with his classic performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

For further reading and listening on this subject, check out the following books or musical CDs:

Woody Guthrie: a life by Joe Klein

Woody at 100:  the Woody Guthrie centennial [musical CD]

Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie

How Can I Keep from Singing: Pete Seeger by David King Dunaway

Pete Seeger: in his own words by Pete Seeger

The Storm King [sound recording]:  stories, narratives, poems:  spoken word set to a world of music

Pete Seeger’s Greatest Hits [musical CD]

Dylan: the biography by Dennis McDougal

Chronicles. Volume One by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits. v. I-III [musical CDs]

Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the night that split the sixties by Elijah Wald

33 Revolutions per Minute:  a history of protest songs from Billie Holiday to Green Day by Dorian Lynskey

Click here to register for the Troubadours & Troublemakers program at the Nevins Memorial Library.