Tom Lynch is reaching for the stars, and wants to bring libraries from across Nassau County with him.
Lynch introduced a telescope program to the Lynbrook Public Library in 2015. After seeing its success, he worked to get the program into other libraries in Nassau County. With 15 libraries currently making use of the program, Lynch does not plan to stop the push for expansion any time soon.
“There are over 900 libraries that have this program now,” he said. “They are mostly in the United States, (but) there’s over 100 in Canada, there’s some in the Netherlands, and in the U.K.”
The program was created by the New Hampshire Astronomical Society in 2008. When Lynch heard about it in 2015, he immediately wanted to bring it to his hometown library.
“Pretty much almost every library in New Hampshire has a telescope,” Lynch said. “At least one, but many of them have three, four or five.” Lynch was amazed at how big the program became in New Hampshire and wanted to bring it to Long Island.
“I’ve been doing this kind of on my own,” Lynch said. “I’m a member of the Amateur Observers of New York, which is a Nassau County-based astronomy club.
“Some people have been helping, but it’s mainly been myself doing this.”
The premise of the program is for libraries to buy an Orion StarBlast telescope with a price of $230. The accessories that are bought with the telescope like the zoom eyepiece, astronomy books, planisphere, and Moon map brings the total coast to between $350 and $400. Compared to other telescopes, Lynch believes that this is a great price, especially because of the perks it has.
The telescope that Lynch encourages the libraries to buy is created in a way that is hard to break. “It would take some real effort to detach things,” Lynch said.
“So it’s a very simple telescope where I can teach a motivated 10 year old to use the telescope in 10 minutes.” Lynch also likes this particular telescope because it is small and light.
“The telescope does not have a tripod that comes with it,” Lynch said. “That is deliberate because with a tripod, you have to screw and unscrew things and you’re going to lose screws, you’re going to lose pieces, you’re not going to set this tripod up right and it’s going to fall over."
The telescope weighs just 14 pounds, which is another reason why Lynch recommends that libraries buy it.
“It’s very simple to transport from place to place,” he said.
“So if you don’t know anything about astronomy, all you have to do is get a little bit of training, then easily pick the telescope up to take it outside, and you can see a whole bunch of things.”
According to Lynch, some of the celestial bodies that can be seen through this telescope are “the moon, various planets at different times, star clusters, galaxies, and overall a bunch of different things can be seen.”
Lynbrook was the first town on Long Island to start the program. “With Lynbrook, I went to the library, showed them the telescope, and I donated it to them,” he said.
Since then, he has also taken the program to Bellmore, East Meadow, Farmingdale, Floral Park, Hempstead, Island Trees, Malverne, Massapequa, North Bellmore, Rockville Centre, Oyster Bay-East Norwich, Seaford, Syosset and Wantagh.
“For the most part, libraries do wind up buying the telescope,” Lynch said. “And I can tell you, the libraries that I’ve dealt with were all extremely happy with it.” With the program now in 15 Nassau County libraries, he has 39 more to complete his effort to reach all of the county’s public libraries.
“I’m only working with 15 of 54 libraries in Nassau County, so a bunch of them will either say no or just ignore me,” Lynch said. He feels as if once these libraries realize how effortless it is to operate the telescope, they’ll be happy to implement the program.