By Lourdes Espinoza
Exit Mariachi Plaza off the Gold Line and enter Libros Schmibros, a Boyle Heights-based, lending library/bookstore founded by former director of literature of the National Endowment of the Arts David Kipen.
Walk through the mariachis into this quaint location as it offers an extensive collection of books ranging from art, history, children’s books, biographies and its own Shakespeare section.
This new location has been a popular spot for Schmibros as Kipen guides every customer toward books of their choice while classical music accompanies in the background.
Libros Schmibros also carries novels commonly used in high school and college English classes by authors like Fyodor Dostoevsky, Aldous Huxley and Hunter S. Thompson.
Being a transit geek, Kipen’s first ride on the Gold Line led him to the Boyle Heights/ East L.A. community he fell in love with.
Inspired by the budget cuts to the Benjamin Franklin branch library which lead to fewer hours of operation, Kipen was inspired to open his lending library/bookstore which he has named Libros Schmibros after both fusing the Spanish word for books and playing on a Jewish joke.
Based solely on donations, flea market buys and Kipen’s own personal collection, which has been in multiple storage locations throughout the years, Libros Schmibros offers most paperback and hardback books for $1 to first-time Boyle Heights/ East L.A. customers and students.
Customers who reside in other areas can still enjoy next-to-nothing prices and books are available to be lent out for three weeks by providing an email address and phone number.
He decided to center his business in Boyle Heights/East L.A. so residents would still have literary resources within the area, and he is grateful the community has welcomed him and his collection.
With some aid from the Pasadena Arts Council Community Partners, Libros Schmibros has been able to operate as a non-profit business.
As they moved from the corner of Cummings and First Street in Boyle Heights, Libros Schmibros continues to collaborate on certain local events with Corazon Del Pueblo and CASA 0101. They have also hosted a student book launch party for Roosevelt High.
When he was involved with the NEA, Kipen worked closely with The Big Read, a national program which promotes literacy to all Americans by engaging them with literary works by American writers.
He has also been a book critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, a copy editor for the L.A. Daily News and Variety Magazine, as well as a freelance journalist.
Kipen hopes to get word out to more high school and college English classes around the area.
He has most recently written introductions for the reissues of the Works Progress Administration guides to Los Angeles and San Francisco for the University of California Press.
Libros Schmibros is located on 1711 Mariacha Plaza de Los Angeles in Boyle Heights and is open Wednesday through Sunday, from noon to 6 p.m.