Who Says Latinos Don’t Read? – Libros Schmibros and #BicycleLibraries featured on cover of La Opinion

David Kipen with the BicycleLibrary prototype - image courtesy of LaOpinion.com

David Kipen with the BicycleLibrary prototype – image courtesy of La Opinion


Photo: Ciro Cesar /
La Opinión
By: Araceli Martínez Ortega / Araceli.martinez@laopinion.com
POSTED: Sep 14, 2014 9:00 a.m. ET


In four years, Schmibros Books has released 14,000 copies in Boyle Heights and has plans to develop a fleet bicycle-libraries

Latinos do read in Boyle Heights.

René Ruvalcaba was about to be dad for the third time, but instead of being in the delivery room with his wife, ran to get a book.

“I never liked to be present, instead I come here to look for literature. Better read than being in the hospital, “says Ruvalcaba.

Libros Schmibros opened in Boyle Heights Mariachi Plaza, a short walk from White Memorial Medical Center.

“It’s great. We have to make sure these libraries do not close because the Internet does not leave open a book, “he says.

In 2010, David Kipen, book critic and former director of reading initiatives of National Endowment for the Arts opened a bookstore in the least expected place: Mariachi Plaza in the neighborhood of Boyle Heights.

“I was in the position that people send me books without even asking for them,” he recalls.

Added to that, the Franklin library would close on Mondays. “Then I thought about what I can do to make a difference in a neighborhood that does not have much access to books.”

So while Franklin closed its doors, Libros Schmibros opened its doors in July 2010.  

Colleen Jaurretche, professor of English literature at UCLA, of Mexican heritage, who along with Kipen opened Libros Schmibros says that if it were not for Latinos do not follow in Boyle Heights.

“We have had mariachis come to ask for copies of Dante in Spanish, to find gifts for their wives on their anniversary,” he says.

“The Latino culture reveres books,” says Kipen, proud of their work.

The proof, he says, is that it is difficult to keep books in Spanish. “They are the first to fly,” says

Libros Schmibros is not a bookshop but rather a lending library that has managed to survive on donations and grants, and volunteer support.

“In four years we have achieved 1,700 members and have put into circulation about 14,000 books.”

But Kipen and Jaurretche dream and penetrate further into the community.

“We have applied for a scholarship to create ten bicycles libraries carry books and those who have no time to come,” he explains.

Read the full story on LaOpinion.com