Libros Schmibros Lending Library Has Moved Into The Historic Boyle Hotel

The Boyle Cummings Block Hotel is the new home of Libros Schmibros Lending Library. (Courtesy of David Kipen)

For years now, local bibliophile David Kipen has shared his knowledge on all things books in the region, whether it's a new release or a significant work from one of California's most famous authors.

Kipen said he built his passion project around books, opening Libros Schmibros Lending Library in 2010 when the public library branch down the street closed. He's quick to point out that anyone who comes through the door can get a book for free, because it's not a bookstore.

"We're just putting books into people's hands on Mariachi Plaza," Kipen told KPCC's Take Two.

The neighborhood locale recently moved from that popular destination at Boyle Heights Mariachi Plaza, but luckily for patrons, it didn't move far.

"We are moving right across the street from our shoebox," Kipen said.

Libros Schmibros's new storefront. (Courtesy of David Kipen)

Located at the corner of Boyle Avenue and East First Street, it is now one of just two storefronts (the other being La Monarca Bakery) in the historic Boyle Hotel building, a Los Angeles landmark with deep ties to the development of Boyle Heights and reportedly one of the oldest commercial structures in the city.

The building was designed in 1889 by architect W. R. Norton for community leader George Cummings and his wife, according to the L.A. Conservancy. In its early years, it served as a social and political hub that pushed for the development of the neighborhood. A streetcar line connecting Boyle Heights to downtown started the same year the hotel was completed.

The Boyle Hotel on the northwest corner of Boyle Avenue and First Street as it was in 1942. (Courtesy of LA Public Library/Security Pacific National Bank Collection)

In the 20th century, it earned the nickname "Mariachi Hotel" because of the local mariachis who would stay there while working the plaza for customers, according to the conservancy.

Kipen said the hotel once even hosted a public reading room for the community.

The building eventually fell into disrepair, but in 2007 it was declared a Los Angeles historic-cultural monument. The hotel was then renovated and reopened with 51 units of affordable housing and ground floor commercial space in 2012, according to the conservancy.

The intersection of Boyle Avenue and First Street, showing the historic Boyle Hotel on the Cummings Block as it appeared in 1972, when it contained Boyle Drugs and a dentist's office. (William Reagh/Courtesy of LA Public Library/William Reagh Collection Los Angeles Photographers Collection)

When one of those commercial spaces became available, the landlord, East Los Angeles Community Corporation, held a competitive application process for the new tenant, Kipen said.

"It was an essay contest! And I wrote a love song to the Boyle which was totally heartfelt and promised to give books to everybody who walked in the door, young or old — although we skew young because we have schools right in the neighborhood — and they went for it!" Kipen said.

Whether you are English-speaking or Spanish-speaking, the large bilingual collection at Libros Schmibros accommodates everyone. The new space also boasts a projector and screen, and Kipen said the library will start showing movies in the fall. The space also features a classroom and rolling ladders with bookshelves that extend all the way to the ceiling.

"The programming possibilities are endless. We're doing writing workshops. It's the home we've always dreamt of all these eight years, and now it's finally happening," he said.

David Kipen organizes his large collection of books. (Courtesy of David Kipen)

You can check out the library's new digs at a public housewarming party from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at 103 N. Boyle Ave.

With contributions from Brian Frank


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