Check Out the Short Story Dispenser Inside Calgary’s Central Library

Located beside Lukes inside the new Central Library, the short story dispenser offers one-minute, three-minute and five-minute stories on demand.

Photograph courtesy of Calgary Public Library.

When you order a latte at Lukes inside the new Central Library, consider whether you’d like a one-minute, three-minute, or five-minute story with it. The library’s new short story dispenser is located right next to the café. Step up, punch your selected time button on the machine, gather up the ribbon of paragraphs it doles out and enjoy!

If you do, you’ll join the likes of Lorna Fraser, who stopped by Lukes while visiting the library for a talk and noticed others collecting strips of paper from the machine. She chose the three-minute button and received a delightfully ghoulish tale. “It was a suspense story about a psychopath murdering people. I can tell you, for a three-minute read, the author got in a lot of detail. It was very clever!” Fraser said.

“Every time I go now, I’m going to get a story,” she added. “It’s like a free treat!”

Rosemary Griebel, service design lead for the library, heard about the short story dispenser created by French publishing house Short Édition and decided Calgary needed one, too. Installed in February, it is one of only four in Canada, the other three being at the Edmonton International Airport, North Vancouver’s Capilano University and a Quebec City hotel.

To ensure the machine offered Calgary voices, Griebel and Lisa Murphy Lamb, director of the creative-writing hub Loft 112, reached out to local writers for submissions. Writers of all stripes enthusiastically wrote or bent already existing fiction into 2,600-, 4,800- or 8,000-character stories. As a result, the library’s short story machine launched with 47 local stories, in addition to works from all over the world. By the end of the year Griebel says they should have around 100.

“It’s an interesting creative challenge,” says Tim Ryan, a Calgary author who has contributed two five-minute stories to the project. “The length confines what you do, but it demands more discipline. We’ve got shorter attention spans now, but who doesn’t have one, three or five minutes for a story?”

This article appears in the August 2019 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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