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Kiski Astronomers to provide telescope for lending at Saxonburg Area Library

| Tuesday, July 5, 2011

SAXONBURG — Butler County residents soon can keep an eye on the sky thanks to Saxonburg Area Library's new telescope lending program.

The library's program is a partnership with The Kiski Astronomers, a local group looking for an outreach project.

It will allow library patrons to check out a telescope for a week at a time, much like a book rental.

The Kiski Astronomers modeled their program after a lending program in New Hampshire libraries. Similar programs have sprung up in Ohio and Florida.

But as far as club President Denny Hill knows, this new partnership is the first in Pennsylvania.

"We didn't really plan on being the pioneers of this in the state," he said, "but that'll be great if we are."

The club bought an Orion StarBlast telescope for donation and looked at a list of local libraries. Club Vice President David Koren, of Clinton Township, volunteered to take care of the telescope, so Saxonburg's library was selected.

"This is the first one," Koren said, "and we'll see how it goes. If it takes off and other people are interested, it certainly can be done for other libraries in Pennsylvania."

Hill hopes the program will find success.

"We're really hoping it takes off," Hill said, "but the downside of that, we're afraid that if it does, we're going to have everybody knocking on our doors saying, 'Can you do this for us?' "

By about age 8, Hill said, children start to appreciate astronomy.

"If you ever watch a young child, their eyes will light up when they see a telescope," he said.

The library will be in charge of the lending policy, and Koren will help support the program by checking the condition of the telescope and answering questions from telescope renters.

The telescope cost about $200, then the club added a special zoom lens and a few other modifications to make it user friendly, bringing the total cost to $300.

"We purchased it with the idea of doing some outreach to help bring the thrill of astronomy to more people — to young people in particular — and to foster interest in science and astronomy," Koren said.

The telescope includes a zoom eyepiece, a book called "Discover the Stars" by Richard Berry, an LED red flashlight, an instruction manual, warning stickers reminding people not to look at the sun and a "planetsphere," used to help locate what's in the night sky.

"This one is chosen to be something that is suitable for loaning to the general public," Koren said. "It will give good images. It's a good telescope and it will provide a good experience without frustrating people. A lot of beginner telescopes end up being in someone's closet because you can't see anything."

This model has a good finder scope, it's portable and it's rugged, Koren said.

The program will kick off Friday evening with an event at the library called "Stargazing myths and ancient folklore."

A member of the club will speak, then those attending can try the telescope.

Everyone who attends will be entered into a raffle to be the first person to borrow the telescope, library Director Erin Wincek said.

Any Butler County resident over the age of 18 with a current ID and a library card can check out the telescope. Turning in the telescope late will carry an overdue fine, but it's not yet set, Wincek said.

Although the telescope isn't on display in the library yet, Wincek said she told children at the summer reading program about it, and they were very excited.

Wincek said she spoke to a librarian involved with the New Hampshire program who said theirs has a long waiting list.

The program will encourage people to look up at the sky, Wincek said.

"They really want to reach youth through this program especially," she said. "I think kids are so into their gadgets, they don't look up — they're looking down."

In addition to the telescope, the library will add to its collection of astronomy books, Wincek said.

Additional Information:

If you go

What: Stargazing Myths and Ancient Folklore program

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Saxonburg Area Library, 240 W. Main St., Saxonburg

Details: Everyone who attends the free program will be entered in a raffle to check out the telescope.

Additional Information:

For more information

Other local libraries who want information about the program can call Denny Hill at 724-845-7567.

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