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This article will take you through the basic steps of reserving a telescope through the online telescope library. Our library is always growing and improving thanks to the combined efforts of our members. At this writing there are twenty-nine telescope packages in all and we expect to have more available shortly. In last month's article we discussed the various ways the library can help each of us as observers and enhance the value of our RCA membership. Since then a number of members have asked me exactly how to look at our collection of observers packages on-line and, especially, how they can reserve a telescope.
1. Viewing the Telescope Library Collection
Our Telescope Library page can be found on the Rose City Astronomers website under the "Membership" menu. The page has general information about the library at the top of the page, with the library collection displayed in a grid (see below).
2. Viewing an Observer Package
Clicking on a photo brings up the observer package detail page. This page lists the contents of the observer package including the primary instrument, its eyepieces and their focal lengths, mounts or tripods, and any carrying cases or packaging (making carrying or shipping the package to the observing site easier).
Each observer package in the collection is a complete instrument, ready for you to take outside, set up, and observe anything you like. You should not need any additional equipment or material to make observations. However, we do recommend additional items, such as charts, manuals, and other informational aids — and you may wish to use your own additional equipment, such as imaging devices, in conjunction with the packaged equipment to conduct observations.
(If this package does not appeal to you, simply close the window and return to the main Telescope Library Page. You will once again see library collection grid and are free to choose another observer package.)
3. Making a Reservation
When you want to make a reservation, click "I want to reserve this, now" and a set of twelve buttons, one for each month, will appear at the top of the page. This is the first page of the reservation screen. The blue buttons are free to select. The red buttons are months that have already been reserved by others. Click on the month in which you will return the telescope.
(This may seem a little awkward at first, but the idea is really very similar to borrowing a book from a library. The librarian lets you know when to bring the book back. We want to know when you will bring the telescope back, and we make it available to you at meetings one month before you say you will bring it back to us.)
Below that collection of buttons, the page shows you the observing package you selected. If somehow that package is not right, or you change your mind, you can still close this browser window and you will be back to the Telescope Library page, no harm done.
Please note the line that says "Normally Loaned From" which tells you where you must go to borrow this package:
4. Enter Your Email or Phone
After you have selected the return month, you will be prompted for identification, such as email or phone number. This lets us know who is doing the reservation, so that based on your membership information, we can validate that you have been a member for at least three months and may indeed borrow a telescope. Once that is done, you will see a confirmation screen.
5. Reviewing and Confirming Your Reservation
Now you see a complete statement of where and when to go to borrow your reservation, and when to bring it all back. Also, this is your last chance to change your mind! Confirming, by pressing that button, will create the reservation and trigger a series of events that will culminate in your picking up the package at a meeting!
Once you have confirmed the reservation, a receipt will appear with all the relevant information about the reservation. You might want to print this and bring it with you when you check out the package, but that is not necessary. All you really need to do at that point is identify yourself. We'll be expecting you!
6. Canceling a Reservation
At the bottom of the page, you will see a list of all of your reservations (yes, you can have more than 1 reservation at a time!), and you will see a CANCEL button nest to each one, so you can cancel any reservation whenever you are at this page as well.
The Telescope Library gives you, as an RCA member, a high level of access to a large collection of different telescopes and accessories. We are here to provide this service and work with you on other aspects of your observing program. We hope you see how straightforward and easy it is to reserve a telescope for your own use. If you have any difficulties or questions about this or any other aspects of the Telescope Library, please feel free to contact us.