First it was books, then CDs and videos.

Now, people can borrow star-gazing gear from the Confederation Public Library in Charlottetown.

A six-inch Dobsonian reflecting telescope is now available for one-week loans.

"At first, hardly anybody was signing it out," said Gillian Mahen, assistant librarian.  "All of a sudden, there's a waiting list.  I think it's the good weather than has boosted demand."

UPEI, Sidewalk Astronomers team up

The telescope is available as part of a pilot project.

The University of Prince Edward Island and the Sidewalk Astronomers of Charlottetown — a local amateur astronomy group — partnered with the library to make it possible.


The telescope comes with an instruction manuel that includes a link to a YouTube video that explains how to use it. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"The program started in the United States, where telescopes are now available for loan in many libraries," said Mahen. "Sidewalk Astronomers approached us, and we agreed this was something worth trying."

'It's far more powerful than a pair of binoculars or an entry-level telescope.' – Assistant librarian Gillian Mahen

But potential borrowers should be prepared. The floor-standing telescope requires assembly, and stands about a metre-high on a swivel base when put together. Borrowers will need a car to get the bulky equipment home.

The instruction manual includes links to a YouTube video, in which UPEI faculty and members of the Sidewalk Astronomers explain how to use the telescope.

"It's far more powerful than a pair of binoculars or an entry-level telescope," Mahen said.  "You can see things like the moon in far greater detail."

Sign it out with library card

Sidewalk Astronomers of Charlottetown have supplied similar telescopes to Island schools in recent years.

The telescope is available only at the Confederation Centre Public Library. Borrowers must present a valid library card, and come to the library in person to sign it out.

There is currently a seven-week waiting list.

"We expect the wait list will get longer as word gets around,"  Mahen said.