Check Out the Library Telescope Program!
Dan Chrisman demonstrates using binoculars and Library Telescopes to view Jupiter at Hollins Public Library, Roanoke, VA. Photo by John Goss/Roanoke Valley Astronomical Society.
Are you curious about stargazing, but hesitant to buy a telescope? Did you know that you might be able to try one out for free? You can check out telescopes from many local libraries thanks to the hard work from the folks at the Library Telescope Program! 

The standard telescope recommended by the organizers of the program, and the ones most likely to be found in your local library, are based on the Orion StarBlast 4.5 inch tabletop reflector telescope. While small, the scope offers enough power to please any beginning astronomer with views of the craters on the Moon, rings of Saturn, Jupiter's moons, many double stars - even a few bright galaxies and nebula for folks with darker skies! The small size, light weight, and tabletop mount design encourages patrons to pick up the scope to bring anywhere. Its mirror is tightly secured to help avoid possible collimation problems, and comes with a permanently affixed zoom eyepiece. These modifications help to minimize confusion for novice telescope users while simultaneously reducing the possible number of parts that can be lost while out and about. Just in case there are any issues, there is often a local astronomy club member who acts a sort of "foster parent" for the scope, helping to maintain and troubleshoot possible problems with it.
small telescope used for the library telescope program
The standard telescope used in the Library Telescope Program, a modified Orion StarBlast 4.5. More info.

The Library Telescope Program was started in 2008 by Marc Stowbridge and members of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society. A pilot program began to test out the best way to run a library lending program for telescopes. There were a lot of variables to consider: how large should the telescope be? What accessories should be included with the scope? What eyepiece-or eyepieces- should be used? After extensive testing and feedback from patrons and librarians, the program evolved into its present -and highly successful - form! 

As of late 2020, the program has helped place telescopes in hundreds of libraries in over 40 states. Thousands of patrons have checked out a telescope across the United States, many becoming avid new amateur astronomers! The program website offers suggestions and guidelines to library staff and astronomers who wish to start their own program, along with valuable how-to videos! The program currently (as of October 2020) offers live training sessions via Facebook Live (every third Wednesday at 9:00 pm Eastern) to curious parties, with sessions archived on their YouTube channel. Check out their Events page for their upcoming schedule and links to attend, and their YouTube page to view past sessions. 

Would you like to try one of these scopes out yourself? Or maybe you'd like to start a program at your local library? Find out more about the program and see if your local library has an available telescope at!
Last Updated: October 28, 2020

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