The first First Monday of the New Year, so why not dive in polar bear style?
Crazy? Maybe, but crazy with purpose! Our January First Monday was partially outside, at night, down at Waterville Public Library; frostbitten toes can be forgotten for a glimpse of Jupiter and a frank talk about a project that’s really working. The main attraction for this First Monday was a peek through the telescope lens at Waterville Public Library’s new observatory, but the group discussion was so candid and varied that it naturally became the focal point of the evening. We dived head-first into the chilly New Year to get invigorated, energized, and inspired!
Now there was purpose behind scheduling this trip in early January– we really did want to see the stars. If we were to schedule this for some balmy night in June the sun would be eclipsing the stars well past 8pm (past the library’s closing time, and a few bedtimes, I’m sure).
An eclectic group carpooled out to Waterville that afternoon (organization!), and we were greeted by Director Jeff Reynolds and a member of Waterville Public Library’s Board. The first highlight of the night: a refreshment table that stepped right out of a dream I have frequently (brie, blue cheese, and I’m not even taking a final for that class I forgot about? Way more enjoyable).
After gorging ourselves, we sat down and met each other, and then Jeff Reynolds told a fantastic tale about luck, coincidence, and a community with strong bonds.
This library has been undoubtedly gifted with luck where money and space is concerned. Within the last decade, the library moved to a huge plot of land itching to be defined. After hearing a story in which it seems like 40K and a project idea just fell into Jeff’s lap like a fairytale, some of us in the group were incredulous as to whether any library not struck by kismet could get projects of this scale off the ground. Against this skepticism, Jeff was certain that money is out there for the seizing. While every library is feeling the pinch on operating budgets, money for projects is overflowing from grant giving institutions and other sources. Not having funding on the operating side may make it harder to go out and compete for the money, or even consider taking on a project, but giving your community new and different things to focus on maybe the gateway to success in your budgeting across the board.
The gasp-iest story of the night (and there were many) was about a teenage girl brought to the observatory opening by her mother. She wasn’t very interested, and did not even really care to look through the telescope, but she did. After a few seconds of looking through the eyepiece, she turned around and told her mother that she’s changing her major…now that’s what it’s all about. That’s why we care to craft these spaces and programs—to let communities experience more, learn about themselves, and engage with the world around them.
Community involvement was not only the key to this project, but the catalyst. The idea for an observatory was propositioned by the Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society to fill a need they had for a big space and a clear, dark view of the Southern sky. Jeff advertised the virtues of joining your local rotary club; both because of how instrumental the members can be in projects, and how important it is for librarians to make inroads into the community. Know them, and let them know you because your goals are nearly identical.
After we chatted we went out. Outside!
The clouds had parted; the sky was dark and twinkling. Despite it only being about a year since the observatory plans formed and actualized, Jeff was an impressive guide to the stars, showing us the constellations and positioning the telescope. We all got a surreal glimpse of Juniper and her moons in the viewfinder. The mobile roof on top of the observatory was an unexpected cheap thrill, watching the roof give way to an unfathomably deep void; everyone was hungrily peeking around the roof as it peeled back like they had never see a night sky before.
Waterville is an area off the beaten path that’s an unexpected mixture of traditional and unique. It’s a community looking inward at itself, yet has been able to harness some of the most exciting technologies to do more, see more, and know more. The hinge of it seems to be that they regard their own neighbors as people worth listening to; in return they’re each playing a part in advancing the community and supporting unique interests.
Hopefully we’ll see you next month on Monday! We’re off to Upstate Medical University Health Sciences Library on February 4th; RSVP here!
p.s.– if you missed out on this event, we will definitely be going back in the future. We plan to make a summer trip when the observatory acquires a solar telescope!!!