WASHINGTON CITY — Astronomical equipment likely isn’t the first thing most people think of when it comes to the library.
However, the Washington County Library System has personal telescopes available to lend out to patrons who want to scan the stars and other celestial bodies in the night sky.
The telescopes are available at each branch of the county library, with its 10th and newest telescope donated to the Washington City branch library Tuesday by the St. George Astronomy Group.
“We’re donating another telescope to the library system so the patrons of the library can check out a telescope like they check out a book,” Tom Olson, president of the astronomy group, said.
Olson was at the Washington City library Tuesday night to present a small Zhumell-brand portable telescope to Washington County Library Director Joel Tucker. Last year the group donated an Orion portable telescope to the library.
The telescopes were made available to the astronomy group to donate to the library through the Astronomical League via the Horkheimer Charitable Fund. In order to qualify to get a telescope, astronomy clubs have to submit a letter to the Astronomical League detailing why their library is in need.
“Every year they give away 10 or 11 telescopes to clubs throughout the country,” Olson said.
Once they receive the telescopes, the astronomy clubs have to modify them for public use so they aren’t as prone to breaking.
The telescopes are worth an estimated $300 before modification.
Tucker said the library originally received six telescope donations from the National Park Service. The county library system then bought two more so each of the county library branches could have a telescope. Those have been joined by the two donated by the St. George Astronomy Group.
“We are fortunate to be able to offer all sorts of resources for patrons to check out. Telescopes are just one piece of that,” Tucker said.
The telescopes are in high demand, he said, with a waiting listing of up to two months for some library branches.
“They’re in constant use,” Tucker said.
The telescopes can be checked out for a week, with a late fee of $5 per day versus the usual 10 cents per day tagged on to late books.
Tucker, who checked out two of the telescopes for a camping trip, said he was “very motivated to return the telescopes on time.”
The telescopes can also only be checked out and returned at their library of origin, not to a different branch as books can.
While there is a waiting list at the more heavily used libraries, a telescope may be more readily available at a rural branch location like New Harmony, Enterprise or Springdale, Tucker said.
Printed materials are also offered with the telescopes that help the patrons using the telescope recognize what they are observing in the night sky above.
In addition to the telescopes, each county branch library offers a maker space with 3D printers, GoPro cameras that can be checked out, virtual reality goggles people can use in house, 360 cameras and a wide selection of books, e-books and e-audio books.
The St. George Astronomy Group meets each second Tuesday of the month at the Washington City library at 7 p.m.
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