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Richland Library granted story dispensers

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Need quick access to a short story to read? Columbia is one of just four U.S. cities selected to receive innovative short story dispensers, which will be located at Richland Library Main initially.

The dispensers look like small ATMs with buttons marked with the numbers one, three or five. Each button represents the number of minutes it should take to read the story. Each story is presented like a grocery store receipt rather than a book page.

Tony Tallent, chief program and innovation officer at Richland Library, said the dispensers continue to build on Columbia's relationship with the area writing community.

“We have become involved with many book and writing clubs. We work with independent writers to help them find ways to get published,” Tallent said. “These programs have allowed us to lay the groundwork for becoming a city that cares about reading and writing.”

In March, the Public Library Association along with Short Edition announced it would bring short story dispensers to public libraries in the United States.

Eighteen cities were eligible to apply and four were selected. Richland County Public Library System will receive three dispensers paid for through a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The dispensers will be moved to different locations around the area.

The other cities chosen were Akron, Ohio; Wichita, Kansas; and Philadelphia.

Short Edition was created in 2011 as a publisher of short stories. Based in France, the startup debuted the dispensers in 2015. Currently there are more than 150 dispensers around the world.

“These dispensers give the library a presence in the community,” Tallent said. “They will be part of our ‘Reach Out and Read’ program we are conducting this summer. We want to put them in places where people are waiting.”

The project will run for two years with no cost to the library. The dispenser uses sustainably secured paper and no ink.

Tallent said the dispensers are scheduled to be on-site in early June and will be distributed around the city during the summer months.

Aspiring authors will also have a chance to have their own stories added to the machine. 

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