Total eclipse

AT THE LIBRARY

The media hype has started and with it the misinformation. Sigh.

Just in case you weren’t aware, on Aug. 21 America will fall under the path of a total solar eclipse. The sun will disappear behind the moon, turning daylight into twilight, causing the temperature to drop rapidly, and revealing massive streamers of light streaking through the sky around the silhouette of the moon.

The last time a total eclipse was visible from coast to coast was June 8, 1918. After this one coming in a few days, the next total eclipse will be Aug. 12, 2045. I’m thinking those of us at a certain age should probably watch this one if we want to be sure to experience this phenomenon. That’s not to say we won’t live until the next one, but who knows?

There is a plethora of eclipse information on the internet, some of it from authoritative sources such as NASA while other sites seem less reliable. Mainstream media such as ABC and CNN are sharing information about the best spots to view, where to stay and timetables of best possible viewing times.

However, not all sources are as reliable. Why is it that misinformation spreads faster than the most malicious gossip? And why is it that libraries are so often forced to deal with misinformation in a defensive manner?

The story spreading so rapidly is that public libraries have free eclipse viewing glasses. While this is a true statement in a far as it goes, the reality is those viewing glasses were sent to public libraries that serve concentrated population areas. Here in central Pennsylvania the two closest libraries with glasses are Harrisburg and Hollidaysburg. No, the Mifflin County Library does not have the glasses. If I had a nickel for every time, in the past week, I’ve apologized for not having the glasses my retirement account would be richer. And, why am I expressing regret anyway? It’s certainly not my fault we don’t have the glasses. I get so annoyed with these blanket statements.

But, people-pleaser that I am, I thought perhaps we could still assist folks who wanted to view the eclipse safely. Perhaps there would be instructions for making safety glasses in a book or on a website. Yes, I found the directions for constructing a pair. Wait! Further research cautioned that making your own glasses is a big no-no, potentially dangerous.

NASA and the American Astronomical Society recommend the following certified retailers: American Paper Optics (Eclipser), APM Telescopes, Celestron, DayStar, Explore Scientific, Lunt Solar Systems, Meade Instruments, Rainbow Symphony, Seymour Solar, Thousand Oaks, TSE 17. It’s important that wherever you get the glasses they should be clearly labeled “ISO-compliant safe solar viewers.”

Mifflin County Library staff members went on the hunt to determine if local businesses were selling glasses. Lowe’s has them for $1.98. Walmart has just the glasses for $1, or the glasses with a booklet about the eclipse for $3.47. Please note: we are not endorsing any company or business and this is purely for informational purposes.

If you want to find out more about the eclipse, visit our website for additional resources. We’ve even vetted these sites to be certain the information is valid and reliable. (Google doesn’t do that, just saying.) As part of our eclipse preparation, we also have a display of materials, factual info as well as fiction books with “eclipse” in the title.

Finally, if you call the library Monday, Aug. 21 about 2:41 p.m. and we don’t answer it’s because we are all outside with our ISO-compliant safe solar viewers experiencing the total eclipse of the sun. Now, why am I humming Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart?”

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Molly S. Kinney is the library director at the Mifflin County Library. She is re-reading the third book in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series. Guess what the title is? “Eclipse.”

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