Put a telescope in your local library

This guest article is by John Jardine Goss, President of the Astronomical League. His subtitle for it is: “The perfect club project.”


Public libraries are more than just collections of books. Recognizing this, many amateur astronomy clubs are participating in a wonderful program, in which library patrons can check out a quality telescope in the same manner as they would a book. The aim is to bring the fascinating field of amateur astronomy to the public by putting telescopes in the hands of interested library patrons.

Not just any telescope will do, though. The telescope of choice is the 4.5 inch StarBlast Dobsonian by Orion. This 13-pound instrument is easy to use, is very portable,


and comes with quality optics. Novice observers can easily obtain their first views of the moon and its craters, Jupiter and its Galilean satellites, and Saturn and its rings. The brighter deep sky objects can be enjoyed as well.

A few modifications make the telescope library-ready. To help keep unauthorized fingers from meddling with the optical collimation, access to the primary mirror is physically restricted. A Celestron 8-24 mm zoom eyepiece is semi-permanently installed to prevent the inevitable loss of removable eyepieces. Full zoom (60x) splits the Trapezium stars in the Orion Nebula, while the lowest power (20x), which also gives  the widest field (greater than 2º), captures the entire nebula.

With an aperture of 4-1/2 inches, the telescope captures as much light as 250 human eyes, significantly brightening dim objects – and making already bright objects very bright. Therefore, a lunar port is provided for more comfortable viewing of the moon when it is near its full phase.

The biggest problem encountered is the program’s success – just one telescope isn’t enough. With a one- or two-week check out period, the waiting list can quickly grow to three months!

This is the ideal club project, one that directly benefits the community!

Complete details can be found on the Astronomical League website at https://www.astroleague.org/content/library-telescope-program

3 thoughts on “Put a telescope in your local library”

  1. Guy,

    I sent your blog post some days ago to the League…

    Not sure if this is a direct result or not but it’s a truly great idea…

    Best wishes,

    Ed Murray
    BMAA Inc.

  2. A library in New Hampshire was first off the mark with a scope loaner program. Marc Stowbridge at the New Hampshire Astronomical Society should be able to connect interested parties to those librarians.

    Our club, the University Lowbrow Astronomers, has provided volunteers to the Ann Arbor District Library to adapt and maintain the scopes. A local machine shop, (its president is a member) drilled and tapped the optical tubes to secure the primary and zoom eyepiece in the focuser. Amy Cantu at the Ann Arbor Library is the librarian to contact there.

    The program has proved very popular. The initial stock of 30 scopes could not keep up with demand and another 30 were purchased, adapted and put into the field. This is an ongoing commitment, mostly for the local library. Ann Arbor has two very involved librarians who have kept up with maintaining the collection.

    Club members have been available to help with larger projects, such as the initial set up of the collection and replacing the cheap plastic red dot finders with heavier duty metal units. Knowing a pool of volunteers is available going forward has been important support for the librarians to keep the scopes circulating.

    In our case the library bought everything, provided staff to set up the program and check each instrument as it is returned to be sure it is fit provide a good experience for the next patron. Some clubs may be able to take on some of these tasks, but some things will require the time of paid library staff. Additionally, if your library hasn’t the funds to invest in a collection, know that you’ll have to raise about $350-400 for each scope put into the field.

    Most librarians are thrilled to have the public interested in its programs and will do everything they can to get a new program off the ground. Your local club should give them a call and see what happens.

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