Now at the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Library: Sign out a telescope


The Oyster Bay-East Norwich Library is offering much more than books these days. As part of its “Library of Things” program, amateur astronomers can now check out a telescope from the library, set up and ready for stargazing.

Library cardholders can borrow such things as a metal detector and a pickleball set for up to a week through “Library of Things.” One of more than a dozen useful tools is the telescope, an Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector.

Library Director Michelle Vaccarelli said that since the telescope was added to the program last October, it has been one of the most often-checked-out items.

“We knew there were people who would be interested in using a telescope and not having to go out and buy their own,” Vaccarelli said. “So we thought, why not let them borrow one from us?”

Although the library had been considering purchasing a telescope for several years, it got a lucky break when Lynbrook resident Tom Lynch reached out about seven months ago. Lynch is a member of the Library Telescope Task Force, an international group of amateur and professional astronomers who provide libraries throughout the country, and the world, with telescopes to inspire and develop the next generation of stargazers.

The task force was founded in New Hampshire in 2008 by Marc Stowbridge, one of NASA’s Solar System Ambassadors and a member of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society. Since then the program has spread to nearly every state as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and beyond.

Lynch has worked with 15 libraries throughout Nassau County since 2015, helping them acquire the Orion StarBlast, a beginner-level telescope that he customizes to make it harder for pieces to detach or be lost. The process of securing it isn’t difficult, he says, but is vitally necessary when the device is handled by so many people.

Lynch delivers the modified telescopes to the libraries, and offers the librarians basic training that they can pass on to patrons.

“It’s a very good, relatively inexpensive beginner telescope,” he said. “It’s very sturdy. There’s lots of telescopes out there that you can get for less, but they’re not as stable or reliable.”

After a telescope is delivered and the library staff is trained, Lynch typically takes a hands-off approach, but he’ll return if enough library-goers express an interest in learning more. While he hasn’t been back to Oyster Bay-East Norwich yet, Vaccarelli mentioned that given the success of the program, they’re considering inviting Lynch back this summer to lead some stargazing sessions.

Several staff members have expressed their enthusiasm for the program, for a variety of reasons. Two of them, Jordan Chaulk and Stacie Hammond, both mentioned how cool it is to have the telescope at the library and how popular it has become.

“I was very excited about it, because I took a bunch of astronomy classes in college,” Chaulk said. “I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, we’re getting a telescope, I can’t believe it.’”

“I’m always excited when we have a new gadget or a new way to engage the community in some way,” Hammond added. “I’ve always thought that we’re more than books here.”

Chaulk and Hammond mentioned that when the comet C/2022 E3, which had not passed by Earth in 50,000 years, was visible in the first week of February, there was a long line of interested library patrons looking to borrow the telescope.

They have also borrowed it to look at Venus and Jupiter, which are both currently visible in the night sky.

Library members of all ages are encouraged to try out the telescope, and can do so by registering at