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Short Story machine draws attention on campus

1-22-2019

Courtney Heinnickel, Staff Writer

Many students may have noticed the strange, robot-like machine outside of the library when they came back from their Christmas break. The machine is a short story dispenser that was placed there to encourage students to read fun works unrelated to their education.

This gives students the opportunity to read more and enjoy a story on their way to, or in between classes. The stories print out like receipts and offer a long sheet of paper to read from or pin to the board for others to enjoy. There are options for one, three, or five minute stories, and the bulletin board behind the machine is littered with stories that students have finished reading.

Behrend’s head librarian, Matthew Ciszek was the one who encouraged the machines to come to Behrend. Penn State University Libraries brought the concept to higher education in 2017 when it placed its first five short story dispensers on and near the University Park campus.

With the launch of its companion Short Story websites, anyone with an active Penn State email address can submit original short works of creative writing online and have their writing featured among the dispensers’ random printouts.

Many of the works that print from those machines are written by the students for the enjoyment of others across campus. The University Libraries’ adoption of short story dispensers in May 2017 made Penn State the world’s first educational institution to partner with the company Short Edition which is located in Grenoble, France.

The Libraries’ innovative agreement enabled the delivery of short, original pieces of Penn State creative writing into the public’s hands, encouraging direct community engagement with, and conversations about, writing by Penn State faculty, staff, and students.

The Penn State University Libraries are partnering with the State College Area High School this month as part of its ongoing outreach and lifelong learning efforts to advance the arts and humanities by loaning one of its Short Edition short story dispensers to the high school.

As of yesterday, a one-month pilot program has been installed to help meet local high school students’ interests, and to establish a dedicated Short Edition dispenser in the school.

There are many of these machines across the campuses and are starting to show up high schools as well. These dispensers have come a long way and will continue to blossom and expand across different schools.