Imagine taking a flight through space, traveling from earth to the very edge of the solar system. We’re not talking a Virgin Galactic space flight with founder Richard Branson. That would pale in comparison. This is an awe-inspiring trip from the start of the universe to the death of stars and everything in between. And all you have to do is visit Brockton Public Library to take the journey. GBS NCNW member Pat Monteith wrote a grant for the purchase of an inflatable planetarium. That’s when the intergalactic excitement began. I stopped by the library during the planetarium’s debut weekend, waited my turn in line behind some very exuberant children, who couldn’t wait to go inside the dome for their virtual trip into space, and then chatted with Pat, who was decked out in a NASA space jumpsuit.
Lisa Braxton-Reid: This planetarium is not just about astronomy.
Pat Monteith: Kids can learn a lot of things. Not just astronomy. Which is why when we put out the request for proposal for it, I was very insistent that we’d be able to derive more from it than astronomy. There’s biology, chemistry. There’s a lot of cultural programs. There are programs in different languages.
Lisa: This must be refreshing for kids and adults considering how cloistered we’ve all been because of the pandemic.
Pat: In the past couple of years students haven’t been able to leave their school. If it were me, I would not sign off on a release for my kid to go to the museum of science. It’s just been too much of a concern. This allows us to bring the planetarium to the kids. It provides other learning activities supplemental to the learning activities kids get in the classroom.
Lisa: Does the planetarium stay here or does it travel?
Pat: It’s owned by the library. It’s part of our collection. It’s loaned out in something called The Library of Things and for the first year I actually come with it. I’ve already gotten a request from Attleboro. If it fits my schedule and it fits the requirements for something that’s 11 feet high and 17 feet in diameter sure, we’ll do that. During that first year I’ll also be training other people, teachers in the school system. I know the council on aging here in Brockton wants to do something on a regular basis so that grandparents can bring their grandkids with them. I think it’s a wonderful thing for the community.
Lisa: What was your reaction when you found out that the grant had been approved?
Pat: (Laughing) How long can you say, “Yippee!” I knew that the Mass Libraries board of trustees was looking for a unique proposal and I remember talking in a Zoom meeting about the grant proposal and I said, “How about an inflatable planetarium?” I thought they were going to jump through the zoom meeting. They were so excited about it.
Lisa: I’m pretty excited too. I’m looking forward to taking a trip to Egypt in the planetarium one of these days.