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2.1 Million Eclipse Glasses Distributed through 7.100 Public Libraries

Press Release From: Foothill College
Posted: Wednesday, September 27, 2017

2.1 million pairs of eclipse glasses were distributed free through public libraries in the U.S. for the solar eclipse event on August 21, 2017. 7,100 organizations, including public library branches, bookmobiles, tribal libraries, library consortia, and state libraries, received a package of free safe-viewing glasses, plus a 24-page information booklet on how best to do public outreach programs about the eclipse. The project was supported, in part, by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, with additional help from Google, NASA, and the National Science Foundation (NSF). This was the single largest distribution of free glasses in the entire country and reached more people with glasses and information than any other educational effort for the 2017 eclipse. It is projected that this library eclipse project allowed 6 million people to observe the event safely.

The eclipse-glasses project was conceived by three astronomers, Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, California), Dennis Schatz (Pacific Science Center, Seattle, WA), and Douglas Duncan (University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado.) Together they brought the idea to Paul Dusenbery, Director of the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL), located in Boulder, Colorado. NCIL already managed the STAR Library Network (STAR Net) to help libraries with STEM programming (with support from NASA, NSF, and others).  This network then expanded considerably once the availability of free glasses was announced.

More detailed information about the library eclipse program is available at: www.starnetlibraries.org/2017eclipse/. There you can also see a final map of the locations of the participating libraries around the U.S.  A copy of the booklet of information that was sent to help train librarians in eclipse science and eclipse outreach can still be downloaded free at: http://www.starnetlibraries.org/EclipseGuide/

Libraries and librarians organized a wide range of public activities before and on the day of the eclipse. Participating libraries were projected to have conducted around 35,000 science programs before and during the eclipse, reaching an estimated 1,750,000 people. According to the American Library Association’s Public Awareness Office, “it was one of the largest science events that libraries have participated in.”

CNN recently projected that about half the country watched some portion of the eclipse. This equates to roughly 150 million people. By comparison, the final game of the NBA championships had a viewership around 20 million people and the 2017 Super Bowl had 111 million.

NASA’s solar eclipse coverage was one of the biggest internet events in recent history and by far the biggest online event NASA has ever measured. More than 40 million views of their live broadcast on nasa.gov and multiple social platforms were recorded.

Hundreds of thank-you letters have been received and photos of events are being posted to the STAR Net flickr account (https://goo.gl/28LqxT). Many libraries had events of unprecedented size and popularity.  For example, the Santa Clara, California, public library reported more than 1,000 people viewing the eclipse on the library grounds and lawn.

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