Library Telescope Program
The goal of our Library Telescope Program is to help foster scientific literacy, stimulate an interest in astronomy, and provide people who have never looked through a telescope the chance to experience the excitement that comes from discovery.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Smaby Family Foundation, we join over 400 other libraries across the US that lend portable, user-friendly telescopes to patrons! Additionally, we are allocating a percentage of the telescopes for educators to check out to share with their students. Ultimately, we will have 30 telescopes for our collection.
The national program was established in 2008 and you can learn more at its website www.librarytelescope.org.
Smaby Family Foundation is proud to support the launch of RMLO’s Library Telescope Program. The goal of this innovative program “to help foster scientific literacy, stimulate an interest in astronomy and provide people who have never looked through a telescope the chance to experience the excitement that comes from discovery” aligns perfectly with the cornerstone of our mission to foster creativity and artistic expression in education, particularly targeting STEAM (i.e. Science –Technology – Engineering – Art – Math) programming for disadvantaged youth and those with special needs.
– Gary Smaby | Managing Trustee
Meet the Telescope
- Our telescopes are Orion StarBlast 4.5″ Astro Reflector tabletop telescopes with modifications to make them more durable and patron-friendly.
- The modifications include adding a zoom eyepiece, dust cap tethers, and helpful labels.
- In the attached gear bag, you will find a red light flashlight (the red light preserves your night vision), a constellation guide, a simplified telescope user manual, and spare batteries.
- Be sure to read the user manual included in the attached gear bag before you go observing.
- Thank you to all of our wonderful Observatory docents that helped modify the telescopes!
How to Borrow a Telescope
- Must be 18 or older or have a parent/guardian present.
- The telescopes are treated like other library materials and you can look them up in our catalog.
- Ask a clerk at the Check Out desk if any telescopes are available, or place a hold online before you come.
- The clerk will ask you to review the telescope loan policy and Frequently Asked Questions.
- The clerk will demonstrate how to carry the telescope and give a brief overview of the components.
- You’re ready to go!
Frequently Asked Questions
The program was implemented in the spring of 2022 after the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory applied for and received a grant from the Smaby Family Foundation to launch the program with 30 telescopes, with a focus on adults wishing to share the experience with the children in their lives.
Our nighttime use telescope is an Orion StarBlast 4.5” reflecting tabletop telescope, which was modified by Library and Observatory staff and volunteer docents to make the telescope more patron-friendly and durable.
Modifications were made by Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory staff and volunteer docents to make the telescope more patron-friendly and durable. The modifications to the telescopes include adding a zoom eyepiece, tethers to the dust caps, and helpful labels.
The telescope kit includes a gear bag attached to the telescope’s base that holds the following items: telescope user manual, constellation pocket guide, red light flashlight, spare batteries for the flashlight and finder scope.
A brief introduction to the telescope is given by the library clerk upon telescope checkout. There is also a QR code and URL label on the telescope tube that directs to www.librarytelescope.org/get-started with instructional videos and additional references for using the telescope and accessories.
The initial cost of purchasing and launching the program was generously donated by the Smaby Family Foundation. Any repair or replacement costs that arise will be funded by Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory. Each modified telescope with accessories costs about $450.
The Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory own the telescopes and their accessories.
Our telescopes were purchased from the telescope manufacturer, Orion Telescopes and Binoculars.
The checkout procedure is similar to other materials the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory has available for checkout. The patron must be in good standing and be 18 years or older or have a parent/guardian present. The patron will be required to review the Telescope Loan Policy and Frequently Asked Questions and listen to the Library Clerk as they deliver brief instructions on telescope handling and use.
The loan period is 7 days. No renewals are allowed at this time. After 7 days overdue the telescope will be considered lost, and the patron’s account will be charged the replacement fee.
If you live in a light-polluted area, Earth’s moon and bright planets will be visible through a library telescope. Deep-sky objects like galaxies, nebulae, and clusters will be best viewed in a darker location.
The most accessible objects to view are the Earth’s moon and bright planets. Deep-sky objects like galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters can also be seen with the telescope.
With the various modifications made to the telescope, there are pieces that stick out from it and could be damaged if bumped against anything. Keeping all the pieces visible makes it less likely to bump any of the pieces. Telescopes in totes tend to rattle around in them, they are hard to secure in a vehicle and need two hands to hold the rather bulky mass.
If the eyepiece or mirror seem dirty, do NOT attempt to clean them. Please contact the library at (760)341-7323 or email us and we will determine if a cleaning is required.
The telescope mirrors and finder scope are aligned before every checkout. Do NOT attempt to align the mirrors. Refer to the user manual if you need to adjust the finder scope. Please contact the library at (760)341-7323 or email us and we will determine if an adjustment is required.
Contact the library at (760)341-7323 or email us. Upon telescope check-in, the Library Clerk will do a cursory review of the telescope and its accessories to note any missing items or damages. Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory staff and volunteer docents will do a further review and perform any maintenance as needed before the telescope is available for the next patron to checkout.
The nut on the base may appear loose but it is in fact a locking nut and there is no risk of the base coming apart. If it was completely tightened down, the telescope would not be able to swivel and easily be pointed in different directions.
One way to carry the telescope is to place the vertical support for the telescope tube in the fold of your arm and pull it to your body (the football hold). This allows one arm to hold the telescope with the other arm free to open doors.
Another way to carry the telescope is a two-handed hold with one hand on the handle and the other hand supporting the base.
The telescope weighs 13 lbs (6kg).
The Library Telescope should be strapped into the car seat with the vertical support against the seatback. The lap belt should go across the bottom of the vertical support and the shoulder belt should go across the tube with the open end of the tube pointing up.
Please send your questions to the Observatory team! If you have a question, you are probably not alone. We will continually update our FAQs to address any questions or concerns you may have. Thank you!
Library Telescope Program: Telescope Modifications (coming soon!)