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Murray Journal

Murray City Library's stellar move: Telescopes now available for check out

Nov 07, 2023 01:34PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray Library now has telescopes that patrons can check out. (Photo courtesy of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society)

The Murray City Library, a haven for bibliophiles and learners, has recently joined a celestial league of libraries that are not just opening up the world of books but also the vast expanse of the universe. By collaborating with the Salt Lake Astronomical Society (SLAS) to offer telescopes for loan, Murray Library is turning its patrons' gazes skyward, furthering its mission to "Open new worlds through discovery and imagination." This initiative, though rooted in ancient fascination, heralds a modern merger of literature and astronomy.

Marc Stowbridge of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society conceived the Library Loaner Telescope Program in 2008. The idea was simple yet groundbreaking: to make beginner-friendly, portable telescopes available for library patrons. Joan Carman, the Library Loaner Telescope coordinator at the Salt Lake Astronomical Society (SLAS), said, "Everywhere the program has been started, it has been a huge success. The interest in astronomy, probably the oldest 'science' known to mankind, has seen a significant boost."

Carman further elucidated the telescope's specifications, "The telescope provided is an Orion StarBlast 4.5-inch F/4." For the layperson, the 4.5 inches indicates the diameter of the primary mirror. This tabletop model, which is available to everyone, undergoes modifications to make it more user-friendly for patrons. These changes include attached covers for the tube and eyepiece and a high-quality zoom lens that eliminates the need for interchangeable eyepieces.

Beyond the telescope itself, libraries also provide patrons with comprehensive guides to the night sky. "A fanny pack is also provided which includes an instruction manual, a book on the constellations and what to look for in them," Carman said. 

To ensure the longevity and care of these devices, SLAS recommends that the telescope be checked out by adults aged 18 or older. While children are encouraged to use it, adults should take responsibility for its safekeeping. "The telescopes are pretty sturdy," Carman said, mentioning that damage is a rarity thanks to the modifications. SLAS also plays an ongoing role in supporting the program, volunteering to make necessary repairs if issues arise.

The collaboration between SLAS and libraries like the Murray City Library has borne tangible results. "We heard that other libraries in the area are offering telescopes. With a little research, we learned that the Salt Lake Astronomical Society helps libraries with this project," Murray Library Director Kim Fong said. 

According to Fong, the library's decision to join the program aligns perfectly with their vision of opening "new worlds through discovery and imagination."

Patrons keen on borrowing these telescopes can do so through the regular hold process at the Murray City Library, given their library cards are in good standing. "Those who have taken the telescope have related that they enjoyed the experience and looked forward to using the telescope again," Fong said.

Carman is hopeful about the expansion of the program, emphasizing its extensive reach within Northern Utah alone. "SLAS already has telescopes in several library systems across Utah. Just this year, we expanded into the Davis County Library System. At present, there are approximately 140 telescopes available in Northern Utah."

“At present, one telescope is available for checkout, for, SLAS recommended, seven days. The library sets this policy. If the program proves exceedingly successful, the library may request a second telescope or third, but that's up to the library,” Carman said.  

Both Carman and Fong encourage other libraries and patrons to consider adopting or supporting the Library Loaner Telescope Program. As Carman aptly puts it, "It's a big win for the library. Patrons love this opportunity and take good care of the telescope." For many, this initiative has transformed routine library visits into cosmic adventures, reaffirming that the universe is indeed closer than it seems. λ