“Philly Storied City” Project Turns the Spotlight on Locals and Their Stories

This blog post is part of an ongoing series made possible by a partnership between Short Édition, the Knight Foundation, and the Public Library Association.

A unique collaboration between French publishing house Short Édition and several prominent organizations in Philadelphia delivers short stories to residents at the touch of a button. Many of those stories are coming from locals themselves.

If you’ve been following Booklist Reader for the past month, you’re likely familiar with the stories of three U.S. libraries that have utilized Short Story Dispensers to revitalize programming, before and during the pandemic. There’s Illinois Prairie District Library, who launched the nation’s first-ever Short Story Cube; Glen Ellyn Public Library, who facilitated the translation and distribution of over 2,000 Spanish-language short stories to patrons; and San José Public Library, who revolutionized established short story contests by uploading winning entries—including comics—to the Short Story Dispenser’s database.

But libraries aren’t the only locations benefiting from Short Édition’s awareness-based, community-forward approach. Last October, the French publishing house, who first developed the Short Story Dispenser in 2016, embarked upon an endeavor that marked a new level of community engagement: a collaborative city-wide project in Philadelphia known as “Philly Storied City.” The program, sponsored by prominent organizations including The Free Library of Philadelphia, the Knight Foundation, and Temple University, is strengthened by the local presence of Short Édition, which recently made Philadelphia its U.S. headquarters. Together, these organizations are bringing Short Story Dispensers to locations throughout the city, free of charge.

In turn, the people of Philadelphia are bringing the Short Story Dispensers to life. Each Short Story Dispenser is part of an ongoing dialogue between the city and its locals, providing a unique vehicle for the stories they both have to tell. In October 2020, Short Édition invited all Philadelphians to “submit their poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction of 8,000 characters or less, to be considered for publication online and in the Short Story Dispensers throughout the city.”

Philadelphia locals peruse a freshly printed short story.

According to Business Development Manager Loïc Giraut, Short Édition has received approximately 70 submissions since then—and published 24 of them. As a project “thought up by a community, for the community,” Storied City succeeded at attracting and showcasing writers of various backgrounds and ages, at different stages in their careers, too.

For some Philadelphia residents, like Andrea Lemoins and Crys Clemente, having their work selected by the Short Édition editorial team meant being published for the very first time. For other featured authors, like Louise Bierig and Kathy Anderson, who’ve had work published previously, inclusion in Storied City has offered a new, more tangible way of engaging with readers across the city. (To learn more about all highlighted authors and their stories, check out #PhillyStoriedCity on Twitter.)

As of now, there are 10 Dispensers in Philadelphia—across a range of venues, including the Philadelphia International Airport; Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities; and nonprofit publisher, the Head & the Hand. Lucky for all readers and writers in Philadelphia and surrounding suburbs, this project is just getting started. Short Édition continues to accept local, original works of short fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction here. Plus, this summer, they’re hoping to further expand their reach to a new audience: children.

“The final objective is to create a collection of stories written by kids for kids,” says Giraut. “We want to create out-of-school learning opportunities and use the entertaining aspect of the machine to help kids and families read and learn.”

And for those of you located outside Philadelphia, don’t despair: your city could be next.

“The idea is really to create something local,” Giraut explains. “We’d love to replicate this model in other cities.”

What kind of changes have you or your library implemented in the past year? Share your story with us @ALA_Booklist.

About the Author:

Briana Shemroske is Booklist's Marketing Associate. She graduated with a BA from Lake Forest College where she studied English Writing and Art History. In her free time she can be found eating cheeseburgers, frolicking with her schnoodle, Moritz, and feebly attempting to play board games. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Briana.

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