Got a Few Minutes? Print Out a Short Story

May 25, 2017 at 11:21 am 2 comments

There are three buttons on the brand new Short Story Dispenser at Schlow Library. I press the middle one and wait for it to generate a free story that will apparently take me three minutes to read (the other options are for a minute and five-minute reads).

Within seconds, a story titled “In the Dark” prints out on what looks like a lengthy grocery store receipt. It just happened to be at the top of the three-minute queue at that moment, and that randomness is what makes Short Story Dispensers so cool, says Joseph Salem, associate dean for learning in the university libraries: You just don’t know what you’re going to get when you press whatever button you press.

The dispensers are the brainchild of Grenoble, France-based Short Edition, whose founder reportedly got the idea while standing in front of a traditional vending machine.

Penn State and Schlow Library in State College are the first educational and public libraries, respectively, to offer the dispensers, says Salem, who worked closely on the project with Jill Shockey ’95, marketing and public relations manager for the University Libraries. They’ve been in talks with Short Edition since last fall and arranged for five dispensers to be set up on the University Park campus on May 8. These generate content, which has been translated into English, from the main Short Edition story bank in France.

Now, the libraries are working with Short Edition to create an independent Penn State story bank, to which any student and faculty member will be able to contribute. The stories will be uploaded onto a special website and will, eventually, be readable on mobile devices as well.

“We’re hoping to have stories that are locally relevant and we want to encourage everyone to submit stories,” Salem says. “The exciting part is that our content, once we’ve worked around copyright issues, will also feed into the main Short Edition story bank.”

He believes that the super-short format of the stories appeals to both readers and writers.

“It can be daunting to write a full story that’s so short, but it’s also doable,” he says. “And a lot of people these days don’t have time for concentrated reading over lunch time—we don’t have time to really engage with a novel, and it’s definitely easier to read a short story, engage with it and ponder it over lunch.”

More than 1,200 stories have been printed on campus and at Schlow since the dispensers were first set up, Salem says, and library staff report that people are actively sharing their printouts.

Savita Iyer, senior editor

Entry filed under: University Park. Tags: , .

Penn State Rugby Is Heading to Philly The Price Is Right for Ryan Belz

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Penn State Libraries (@psulibs)  |  May 25, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    We at Penn State University Libraries are very excited about this innovative experiment. It has been a great team effort by many, including several names not mentioned above, and as we say, this news is just the beginning of this story…!

    For more information about Short Edition, there is an English website at

    The Penn State News release outlining our vision, including incorporating the dispensers and the content platform into course-related use, is at

    For those just looking for the current locations of the short story dispensers (from the news release):

    Five Short Edition story dispensers have been installed: four on the University Park campus and one in downtown State College. Initially, two will be installed on the first floor of Pattee Library and Paterno Library, near the Commons Services desk and the Curtin Road entrance, and one each at two branch library locations: the Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library, 111 Stuckeman Building, and the Physical and Mathematical Sciences Library, 201 Davey Lab. In addition, one Short Edition story dispenser has been placed in Schlow Centre Region Library, a public library serving the greater State College community located at 211 S. Allen St. in downtown State College. … The University Libraries’ Short Edition story dispenser installation at Schlow Centre Region Library marks the latest in an increasing partnership between the neighboring libraries.

  • 2. Penn State Libraries (@psulibs)  |  March 6, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    There’s a big update to the Short Edition story at Penn State! We at the University Libraries have activated the Penn State Libraries Short Stories website, accessible to anyone with an active Penn State email address, and have kicked off its launch with a University-wide student short story contest! The competition’s theme is “New Beginnings.” Read more about the website and the student contest at’-short-stories-website-launches-university-wide.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Follow The Penn Stater on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow us and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 514 other followers

%d bloggers like this: