Blogger Abby Johnson

2017 Eclipse: Never Forget

TW: eclipse glasses

If you were working in an American public library* in August of 2017, you likely remember the solar eclipse of August 2017. The five-year anniversary of the 2017 eclipse just passed us, so let’s take a moment to reflect and debrief. After all, another solar eclipse is coming in 2024.

2017 eclipse photo of the sun completely eclipsed.
Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani) Used with permission from a Wikimedia Commons license.

What was the 2017 eclipse like for you?

I can tell you, my library was caught off guard like many others. The media was busy telling the public that libraries had free eclipse glasses. Meanwhile, we had no idea until patrons started calling and asking for them. StarNet is the organization that provided free eclipse glasses to libraries, but they were not on our radar until we started getting calls. When we realized that this was Going to Be a Thing, we purchased some. But by the time it Really Became a Thing, there were no more eclipse glasses to be had. Our second order went unfulfilled. We had to tell many, many patrons no, which is not something I love to do.

Was any library prepared for the 2017 eclipse?

If everything went smoothly for you with the 2017 eclipse, I would love to know how you handled it. How did you distribute the glasses? What fun activities did you do? I’ve heard many, many horror stories. If you have a success story, please share!

We pulled it together as best we could. My library wasn’t in the path of totality, but we were near it. You could definitely tell a difference while the eclipse was happening. We didn’t have eclipse glasses for everyone, but we were able to make some pinhole projectors for those who didn’t have them.

What are we doing for the 2024 eclipse?

When I tweeted about the 2017 eclipse on the actual anniversary, I heard from some libraries who had already ordered eclipse glasses for next time. (Where are you storing those, btw?) Will you be ordering eclipse glasses? Are you stocked up on books about eclipses? Do you have any fun ideas for programming? Please share! The next total solar eclipse to cross the US will be on April 8, 2024. It may be a little early to prepare. But it’s not too early to make a note in your calendar for when it will be time to start preparing.

*Or museum or any kind of store that carries normal glasses

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: III. Programming Skills, VI. Administrative and Management Skills


  1. Kathy Smargiassi

    We had a grand time! But there was no way we could have had the number of glasses that people were demanding. We got 2 grants to get glasses, one from StarNet and one from our state library association (I believe, it’s been a while), so we had 2000 glasses or so, setting aside a couple hundred for the program the day of. I put on a program that day where I had them act out what was happening during an eclipse, talked about eclipses in general, and what they could expect to see and do. We had a LOT of people hanging out around the library, but people were happy, and sharing glasses. I went around and showed them various ways to look at the eclipse without glasses (such as an old sieve, or the shadows of trees, etc. The local TV station even sent a reporter to cover it.

    The event itself was fun and low key and everybody had fun. The lead-up, though, with so many calls for the glasses, was stressful.

  2. Chelsey Roos

    Thank you for letting me know that my library was not the only one where things went absolutely WILD. The phone rang non-stop. The people were rioting. More than one patron complained that we were holding our eclipse event during the school day, and why didn’t we schedule it for a weekend?

    I’m taking the next eclipse off.

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