Eclipse Engenders a Relaxed Social Hour on the Library Lawn

April 8, 2024

The vibe during Monday’s partial solar eclipse viewing experience on the library’s southeast lawn was an amalgam of familiar outdoor community events – summer evening concerts, Bedford Day fireworks, the plant fair on the Common, and a game of tee-ball.

The eclipse, of course, was the common denominator, and a few minutes after 3 o’clock, most eyes turned to the sky, protected by certified protective shades.

For more than an hour leading up to the climactic moments, folks of all ages brought lawn chairs, blankets, books, and board games. The conversations were interspersed with scientific comments and explanations at various levels.

“You can’t see the earth because we’re on it,” a dad explained to a small child gazing toward the sun through the special glasses.

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“I could have watched this from conservation land, but I wanted to be with other people,” said longtime resident Kaye Spofford.

Noreen O’Gara, assistant director of the Bedford Free Public Library, said the staff gave out approximately 1,400 solar viewing shades over the past eight days, including some 250 on Monday.  The only requirement was a library card, and O’Gara said the staff “reinstated several folks whose cards expired long ago and enrolled many new cardholders.”

Library Director Richard Callaghan participated on a national conference almost a year ago when the concept of libraries as local eclipse command posts was introduced, O’Gara said, and right away, the staff here began lining up vendors to ensure a good supply of shades.

“This has been a great thing for us – promoting science and the library,” she affirmed. Everyone at the library gathering received a sticker acknowledging the date, the place, and the event, and featuring a smiling cat with protective glasses.

The south-facing sloping lawn was ideal for the viewing, especially since everyone was looking up. Town Historian Sharon McDonald reminisced about story hours on that space when she worked as children’s librarian. Six varsity girls’ lacrosse players found space for their gear and used their protective shades to view the phenomenon before heading off to practice.

Across Mudge Way on Field E, another 100 or so eclipse-watchers had more room to spread out. The Destination Imagination team set up a concession stand; Lane School student volunteers meandered over to the library lawn with treats and drinks for sale.

Life did not come to a standstill. A couple of school buses headed along Mudge Way. Dog walkers passed uniformed baseball players on the Jenks Trail. The breeze picked up and the ambient light seemed weird as the time for maximum coverage neared. For those with the special glasses, it was startling to see only a crescent of sunlight that remained.

Although the lawn was abuzz during the buildup, once the zero hour passed, people headed out fairly quickly.

Meanwhile, some people chose to gather in the library meeting room to watch a streaming from several parts of the country experiencing totality.

O’Gara applauded the circulation staff for “handling the innumerable phone calls asking for information about glasses throughout the week – and handling folks who all came in at 2 p.m. – with patience and good humor.”

She said the library will accept used glasses, as long as they are undamaged, for distribution elsewhere. People can keep the stickers.

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Deb Macleod
April 8, 2024 9:11 pm

Thank u to the library for our glasses

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