With glasses scarce, curious flock to view eclipse at Towson library

The wait to get into the Towson Library's storytime to score a pair of the hard-to-find glasses needed to safely watch Monday's solar eclipse reminded Peggy Szczerbicki of waiting in line for the release of the latest edition of the popular Harry Potter book series.

More than 150 people snaked around the library's spiral rotunda staircase Monday in hopes of snagging a pair of the cardboard spectacles. Though 1,000 pairs of glasses were distributed across Baltimore County's 19 public library branches, the Towson branch received 100, which officials distributed to the first 60 families who got in line for the day's storytime, a sun and moon-themed toddler educational program.

After arriving at the Towson branch just as employees opened the doors at 9 a.m., Szczerbicki was first in line. The fourth grade teacher said she decided to come to the library after calling around to area stores for glasses and finding them sold out.

"It's the golden ticket," Szczerbicki said.

The glasses were distributed as part of library programming dedicated to the eclipse that featured a children's storytime, interactive educational crafts, and a watch party on the roof of the library's parking garage, according to programming director and librarian Heather Mays.

The last total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States occurred in February 1979; the next will occur April 8, 2024, according to NASA.

"We thought it was really cool that they were adding a story element to the eclipse viewing, but it's a once in a lifetime thing," said Sarah Hodges, of Mount Washington, who attended the events at the Towson branch.

Hodges got in line with her friend, Rachel Neal, at about 10 a.m. after forgetting to purchase glasses until it was too late. Online prices exceeded $200 for glasses that could be purchased for about $2 two weeks ago.

Though some were turned away, more than 100 people gathered on top of the garage to watch the eclipse, sharing glasses between groups and taking turns at using pinhole projectors made out of cardboard tubes, cereal and shoe boxes.

"It went much better than expected," Mays said. "Once we got up here, everyone came together, sharing and enjoying the experience. It was lovely."

Zipporah Brown and Dominic Gladden did not make it to the library in time to get a free pair of glasses, but instead made pinhole projectors with paper and foil provided by the library.

"I love science," Brown, of Baltimore City, said. "This is a pretty cool event and I definitely wanted to see it."

Though initially cloudy, the clouds parted just after the peak of the eclipse, allowing Iris Shields and Iris Jackson to watch through a shared pair of glasses.

"I came, I saw and I made it with my eyesight intact," Jackson said.

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