Arts and Entertainment

Libraries Short Stories pilot program launches at State College high school

High school students inspired to raise funds for a permanent Short Edition dispenser

Penn State University Libraries’ innovative approach to using Short Edition’s Short Story Dispensers as a tool to advance engagement with the arts and humanities is expanding. Since 2017, other universities and K-12 schools such as State College Area High School have approached Penn State librarians, asking how to incorporate short story writing into their curricula and community engagement initiatives. Credit: Penn State University Libraries / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Libraries is partnering with the State College Area High School in January 2019 as part of its ongoing outreach and lifelong learning efforts and Penn State’s strategic goal to advance the arts and humanities by loaning one of its Short Edition short story dispensers to the high school.

Starting Jan. 21, a one-month pilot program aims to help meet local high school students’ interest to establish a dedicated Short Edition short story dispenser and creative writing initiative in the school.

“It’s exciting to see how quickly our Libraries Short Stories initiative is growing, not only across Pennsylvania at our commonwealth campuses, but also locally beyond the University itself,” Hailley Fargo, University Libraries student engagement and outreach librarian, said. “We just completed our second Penn State writing contest. Its participation rate grew by more than 30 percent, and its range of involvement expanded among campuses. Last month we opened our Libraries Short Stories website to submissions from Centre County residents. To see State College high school students be motivated to have their own story dispenser is another great sign of support for our effort to encourage engagement with the arts through creative writing.”

Penn State University Libraries' fifth short story dispenser from Short Edition is on the second floor of Schlow Centre Region Library in downtown State College. The dispenser's installation marks the latest in an increasing partnership between the neighboring libraries. Credit: Penn State University Libraries / Penn StateCreative Commons

Members from one of the school’s clubs, called My Mental Health Matters, noticed the University Libraries’ Short Edition short story dispenser in Schlow Centre Region Library in downtown State College, Pennsylvania. The University Libraries offered it to the public library in 2017 as part of the two organizations’ ongoing and expanding partnership efforts. Club members approached State High librarians, who queried Penn State librarians about how to acquire a short story dispenser for the high school. Club members are now raising funds to purchase a permanent Short Edition dispenser for the high school.

Inspired by the students’ interest, the high school librarians, who oversee the State High Reads common reading experience and discussion program, have adopted “State High Reads (and Writes!) Short Stories” as its 2018-19 theme. On Dec. 12, the school launched its first short story writing contest with the theme “Short Stories of Challenge and Change” and the writing prompt “A gray day provides the best light,” a quote attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci. Both connect to the My Mental Health Matters club’s mission, “to help eliminate the stigma often associated to mental health by creating positive mental health awareness via activities where all students feel accepted, appreciated, acknowledged and cared for in our school.”

“The University really impacts how we do things here at the high school. We have some advantages over some more rural schools,” said Lois Scarangella, co-librarian at State College Area High School. “We want to ensure that our students are prepared to go to a university, so we have had conversations with Penn State librarians about what we can do to have our students better prepared to do library research at a college level.”

Scarangella explained that the high school also has begun use of TurnItIn, a web-based writing assessment toolkit used by Penn State and other university instructors worldwide to provide writing feedback to students, and also to evaluate submissions’ originality and detect the potential of plagiarism. Students will submit their original short stories for the contest using Turnitin to become familiar with the platform.

All State High students also are encouraged to submit their stories to the Penn State University Libraries Short Stories website, which is now open for submissions of original short stories and poetry by any resident of Centre County, as well as to Acclivity, the high school’s writing club and literary magazine.

The University Libraries’ adoption of short story dispensers in May 2017 made Penn State the world’s first educational institution to partner with Short Edition of 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 conversation about writing by Penn State faculty, staff and students. Since 2017, other universities and organizations have reached out to the University Libraries to inquire about establishing their own Short Edition and short story writing initiatives.

For more information about the Libraries Short Stories website and short story writing contests, contact Hailley Fargo, student engagement and outreach librarian, at For more information about Penn State University Libraries’ Short Edition short story dispensers, contact Rick Riccardo, University Libraries associate director of facilities planning and construction, at

Last Updated December 19, 2018