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State High Short Story Dispenser

Short Story Dispenser  Snacks routinely come from vending machines at State High, but until recently, punching a button also brought food for thought.


For a month, students and faculty could obtain a free short story from a dispenser on loan from the Penn State Libraries, the latest town-gown partnership between the library systems. Printed on recycled paper and lasting one, three or five minutes — the choice up to the recipient — the stories emerged from an archive of 9,000 authors contracted with the French company Short Edition.


The pilot program, sparked by State High’s My Mental Health Matters (MMHM) student group, was meant to spur reading and inspire short story writing, and it proved successful on both counts. More than 525 stories were printed, many shared with others by hanging them on a string, much like on a clothesline.


Additionally, as part of a short story writing contest “State High Reads (and Writes) Short Stories,” six students submitted works to Penn State’s Short Edition website, to be distributed via the university’s Short Edition dispensers and one in Schlow Centre Region Library.


“Students have been walking into class, coming from lunch or just the passing period, carrying their stories and discussing what they read with others,” said English teacher Jennifer Evans, the MMHM club co-advisor.


short story dispenser “Someone different inevitably walks out of the classroom proudly with that story in hand. The excitement and shared conversations about a similar reading experience builds community by giving everyone the opportunity to connect with others whether they were previously friends or not, liking the text or not. It has been a fascinating and fun full school endeavor.”


It all started last spring when MMHM students liked using the Schlow dispenser. Impressed, they and their advisors asked the State High library staff about adding one to the high school, and discussions led to the Penn State loan. Subsequently, the State High Reads initiative, a library program that annually selects a common reading experience, made short stories the 2018-2019 theme. Out of that choice came the writing contest, with five $100 prizes donated through MMHM and a prompt of “A gray day provides the best light.”


As State High Reads does, the Short Edition dispenser helped foster a sense of community during its run.


“My favorite moment was when I noticed two students sitting together and the one was reading aloud his short story to the other,” Librarian Lois Scarangella said.


Librarian Mark Morath noted other examples of success — a teacher standing in a line of ninth-graders anxiously chattering about printing a story; a teacher bringing her seniors to print and trade stories; a counselor enjoying the lines of students and enthusiastic comments; the girls’ track team taking a break from practice to check out the dispenser. The dispenser has been such a hit that MMHM is working towards purchasing a permanent one for State High.


“We are very thankful to Penn State University Libraries for lending us the dispenser,” Morath said. “It has created a fresh buzz around reading throughout the school.”


By Chris Rosenblum

short story dispenser