Libros Schmibros is the Artist-in-Residence at the Hammer Museum

What happens when two of my favorite things pair up?  A unique bookstore fills the gallery of a contemporary museum.  A while back David Kippen, book critic and former director of literature for the NEA, noticed two things:  the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles didn’t have a bookstore while the local libraries were cutting hours, and that he owned 7,000 books.  In response, he opened Libros Schmibros, a small store front in Boyle Heights where the community can borrow books or buy them at a heavy discount.  It is run by volunteers, that’s right, it’s a true labor of love.  All of literary LA loves this concept, so much so that the Hammer invited him to the westside of LA to take over the lobby gallery for six weeks.  Think a pop up bookstore museum style.  Same rules apply here, books are available to borrow or buy at a discounted price.  In fact, residents of Westwood and Boyle Heights can buy the books for a dollar.  Anyone else heard of a local bookstore selling books to locals for a buck?

Part of the back mural

The store is packed with books under a banner on the back wall depicting Los Angeles literary figures.  The banner itself is worth entering the gallery.  But the books won’t disappoint either.  They’re all arranged alphabetically by author, fiction, non-fiction, all genres are shelved together (with the exception of California history and art books).  I like the mixture, it felt strangely efficient.

What would a bookstore or a gallery installation be without related events?  Libros Schmibros hosts several over the next few weeks.  I attended a quiz about LA History last weekend in honor the reissue of the Los Angeles in the 1930s:  The WPA Guide to Los Angeles.  Halfway through the quiz, my team was in the lead.  I think this is more indicative of my ability to pick teammates among strangers than it is of my knowledge of LA history.  Unfortunately, I had to leave before the second half of the quiz began so I don’t know the ultimate winner.  Even on days without events, the website lists the hours of well known volunteers (guest workers) such as authors and film makers so the public can stop by and ask them about their artistic work.

It’s a charming space, stop by if you’re in the neighborhood.

Libros Schmibros at the Hammer Museum

10899 Wilshire Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90024

T:  310.443.7000

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