Literary kiosk concludes introductory tour, more to arrive

With more than 5,000 stories distributed during a test-run tour in area libraries, “short story machines” are predicted to be a hit in the fall.

Josie Fischels, News Reporter

From the Iowa City Public Library to the Marion Public Library, a literary kiosk has made monthly stops in Iowa City and area libraries as part of its “Creative Corridor” tour. It will make its final stop in May at the Eastern Iowa Airport.

As part of a trial period before the official, permanent implementation of more “short story machines” this spring, the literary kiosk has been delighting library-goers by dispensing one-, three-, and five-minute stories on receipt-like slips of paper, said Amy Chen, English & American literature librarian at the University of Iowa Main Library.

Right now, the UI Libraries/UNESCO City of Literature has one three-button kiosk that has made stops at the Iowa City Public Library, Coralville Public Library, North Liberty Library, Cedar Rapids Public Library-Ladd Library, Cedar Rapids Public Library on 5th Avenue, and Marion Public Library. Chen said four more are on the way and are expected to arrive next week.

The original test kiosk, supplied by the French company Short Edition, concluded its tour at Eastern Iowa Airport at the beginning of this month.

In an August 2018 press release, Iowa City announced its plan to begin testing the new kiosks in hopes of bringing in more in the spring.

“Designed to be quick, easy, and engaging, the Literary Kiosk encourages on-the-spot reading and literacy,” the press release said. “The kiosk also increases access to literary content while raising the visibility of literature and highlighting the diversity of writers’ voices in our community.”

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During its tour, community members visiting their local libraries could interact with the kiosk during specific months. In March, both of the public libraries in Cedar Rapids each had the machine for two weeks, creating an opportunity for the community and staff to experiment with all the machine had to offer.

“It was really, really cool,” said Amber McNamara, communications-relations manager for both Cedar Rapids public libraries. “It’s such a unique experience for people, and our staff had a lot of fun playing with it, testing it out, and then sharing it with patrons. We got a really positive response.”

The library is in the process of ordering four more machines that will only have two buttons that are not labeled by reading length, Chen said. Instead, the machines will be left unlabeled so the libraries can change the content according to theme.

“We’ll need 100 to 150 stories for each time that we refresh the content, but at first, we just want a wide variety of voices,” she said.

While decisions are still being made as to where to place the additional machines, Chen said Iowa City is likely to have one at the Main Library, the Iowa City Public Library, and at the UI Hospitals & Clinics.

The library also hopes to stock all kiosks with content from local writers. Submissions are now open for the community to submit short pieces of writing for the machines and can be accessed through the UI Libraries webpage, Chen said.

“Faculty, staff, students, even folks that are unaffiliated with the University of Iowa should feel free to submit their writing,” she said.