Beyond Four Walls: Library Uses New Dispensers to Promote Reading, Community Engagement

Aug 17, 2018

During its recent Learn Freely Fest, Richland Library launched newly-acquired short story dispensers for the public to try. The sleek, black and organge device allows people to select a one, three or five minute story to print. Richland Library is one of only four libraries across the country to receive the dispensers. Its a part of a program called Fostering Creative Community Connections, a project to promote reading; community engagement; library programs and services; and creative expression from diverse writers.

Stories dispensed from the new devices are randomly selected from a database of about 80,000. The database is maintained by Short Edition, a French-based publishing company themed as a "community publisher of short literature." In an April 2018 article published by Literary Hub, Short Edition's international business developer Loic Giraut explained how the idea for the dispenser was born.

“One day, while they were in front of the coffee vending machine, the four co-founders of Short Edition- Isabelle Pleple, Slyvia Tempseta, Quentin Pleple and Christophe Sibieude- thought: ‘Why couldnt we do the same thing, but with culture and stories instead of coffee? Literature should be available everywhere!’”

In October of 2016, the machines starting popping up in the French city of Grenoble. The first dispenser in the United state was at a San Fransciso coffee shop. Today, 150 dispensers are installed or are about to be installed for the Fostering Creative Community Connection project, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

"They really encourage libraries to go for it; to innovate, to experiment in new ways, to really see what it takes to bring a community together or to get minds going and thinking in different ways so we’re really proud to be apart of it," Tallent said.

Four libraries from 'Knight cities' were selected for the program, they include libraries in Ohio,

We want the library to be more than just the four walls that surround our shelves and our computers.

Pennsylvania, Kansas and South Carolina. Tallent said the opportunity is giving Richland library a great opportunity to expand its reach into its community.

"One of the things that we want to do is to show up in this community in new and different ways. We want the library to be more than just the four walls that surround our shelves and our computers; we want to be in people’s lives in new and interesting ways to promote literacy to, promote community-building"

Tallent said the machines, which dispenses stories on eco-friendly paper and uses no ink or cartridge to print, have been met with an enthusiastic response by library goers,  and staff. 

"The stories themselves print out like a very long store receipt but on very nice paper, and so we’re finding interesting ways already to recycle the stories or upcycle the stories. We have a staff member who is taking them and making origami with them, making small pencil holders with them. It's interesting to see how creativity, spurs creativity, innovation creates more innovation."

Tallent adds, people can save their short stories, share them with family and friends or leave then in places for others to find. Learn more, here.