The Literary Life of Brian Courtemanche
In the long-running young adult book series, Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, a ragtag group of teenagers investigates murky circumstances often tinged with the supernatural.
“It was kind of like The Hardy Boys but with the spooky dialed up,” according to Brian Courtemanche, Endicott’s Library Director. “Mystery, combined with a spice of the supernatural and The Twilight Zone—that was my thing.”
Courtemanche has always been a book lover and erudite scholar of metaphysical realms, so he’s also always gravitated to libraries—filled with knowledge, dusty tomes with their own kind of mystery, and endless possibilities within.
“I always found the library to be a place of refuge, a place where I could get my head together,” he said.
Growing up along the North Shore, where ghost stories and witch trial history are the norms, he immersed himself in the world of UFOs, Bigfoots, and Loch Ness monsters, and felt drawn to the plucky juvenile detectives investigating them in the books he devoured.
“I can’t say that I’ve had any spooky encounters myself,” he said with a laugh inside his Halle Library office, which is outfitted with more artifacts and tchotchkes than Indiana Jones. “I’ve just always had an appetite for it.”
While most Endicott students aren’t solving mysteries or cracking the case, it’s the intellectual investigation that Courtemanche and the reference librarians facilitate at Halle Library. Even so, Courtemanche can’t help but draw parallels to the spooky literature of his youth.
“As a kid, I loved the gothic chillers by John Bellairs,” he said. “And a lot of his heroes were bookish types—professors, librarians. There would usually be a team-up between a teenage kid and a knowledgeable older person and a blending of the everyday and the supernatural that I found delicious.”
Did Courtemanche envision himself becoming one of those knowledgeable older figures someday?
“I’m sure it probably, consciously or not, worked itself into my brain,” he admitted.
As a Merrimack College student, Courtemanche took a job in the school library while pursuing his bachelor’s degree. He got a master’s at Salem State College next, but after marrying and anticipating a new baby, Courtemanche found himself questioning his office job.
“I was working very, very hard to make somebody else rich,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is not where I want my life to go.’”
While paging through the Lowell Sun, he saw an employment ad at the Merrimack College library where he’d once worked. They remembered him and hired him as Head of Circulation.
But to be a certified librarian, Courtemanche needed a second master’s degree. He graduated in 2000 from Simmons College in Boston with a master’s of library sciences and was hired by Endicott in 2006.
“The College welcomed me and offered me an opportunity and challenged me. And it continues to do so,” he said. “I love this school. I just love it.”
The College has also provided Courtemanche with an outlet to expand on his supernatural interests.
“I have all this weird stuff in my office, and I’m always looking for more weird stuff,” he said. “And one day, [former President Dr. Richard E. Wylie] comes in and says, ‘What in the devil is all this?’”
Wylie, who had a passion for ghostly storytelling around Halloween, saw a kindred soul in Courtemanche.
“He was very kind and invited me to co-narrate some of the ghost stories that we have on campus,” he said. “When he passed away, I just inherited the baton.”
Even now, Courtemanche keeps an open mind about the supernatural. There’s a line from Hamlet that he often quotes: There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
“The gist of it being that the world is a lot stranger and more mysterious than we give it credit for,” he said.
These days, though, he’s more interested in demystifying Halle Library and turning it into a destination for students.
“We’re serious when it comes to our work but it’s not the kind of austere place where everyone's getting shushed,” he said. “It’s everybody’s library, and I just have the great good fortune to work here.”
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