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A faster route to stargazing: St. Louis libraries add more telescopes

Seven-year-old Phoenix Torno checks out his own reflection in the telescope's internal mirror, while his younger brother Bodhi tries to get in on the action.
Véronique LaCapra|St. Louis Public Radio file photo
Seven-year-old Phoenix Torno checks out his own reflection in the telescope's internal mirror, while his younger brother Bodhi tries to get in on the action at a library telescope event in November, 2014.

Libraries throughout the St. Louis area will soon have more telescopes available for checkout.

The St. Louis Astronomical Society put 29 telescopes together over the weekend, bringing the total number of telescopes at area libraries to 88 by March 17.

Twelve of those telescopes are headed to St. Louis County Library branches, which will bring the library system’s total number of telescopes available for checkout to 26.

St. Louis County Library director Kristen Sorth said almost doubling the number of telescopes available for one-week checkouts should help whittle down the library system’s 500-person wait list.

“We thought it would be popular. I’m not sure that we thought it would be this popular. Which is fantastic and just speaks I think to the patrons’ desire to expand their knowledge of things,” said Sorth. “It’s definitely a several month wait but our patrons have been pretty patient waiting. So far the telescopes that we have have been checked out over 400 times.”

Every Orion StarBlast 4.5” telescope in the library program comes with a quick-start guide, user manual, constellation booklet, moon map, lens cleaner, and headlamp.
Credit St. Louis County Library | provided
Every Orion StarBlast 4.5” telescope in the library program comes with a quick-start guide, user manual, constellation booklet, moon map, lens cleaner, and headlamp.

Sorth said the additional telescopes are part of St. Louis County Library’s overall focus on science-based programming.

The library system added take-home science experiment kits to their circulation in January, and offers star-gazing parties in partnership with the St. Louis Astronomical Society and other science at the library events in partnership with Washington University.

Sorth said the science experiment kits were all checked out as soon as they became available.

“It’s really great to see kids so interested in science,” Sorth said. “I think it’s probably that there’s more awareness about the importance of teaching kids about science, technology and math.”

The St. Louis Astronomical Society is holding its next star-gazing party Monday night at the Grant’s View library branch starting at 7:30.

Libraries in St. Louis, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, the Metro East and St. Louis County municipalities all have telescopes purchased and retrofitted with the help of the St. Louis Astronomical Society.

Each telescope costs about $335. They are available to checkout for free for one week to anyone with an adult library card.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

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