In the lobby of the Hammer Museum, among pink lights and Chinese lanterns, sit 5,000 books.
The literature is courtesy of Boyle Heights-based Libros Schmibros, a used bookstore and lending library that opened at the museum on Aug. 27.
And for the next month, the bookstore will be hosting guest readers and events, working in part with UCLA literary groups.
On Saturday afternoon, the small store attracted an energetic crowd. Amid the bookshelves, a trivia game started and continued into the night.
“The levity of the name ““ Libros Schmibros ““ suggests the idea that reading doesn’t necessarily mean having your nose in a book in a stuffy library or being in the basement of (Charles E. Young Research Library),” said Lisa Mendelman, an English graduate student and graduate student liaison for the Hammer Museum and the English department.
The bookstore, cofounded by UCLA alumna Colleen Jaurretche, takes a novel approach to selling literature: Anybody can borrow a book, and all the store asks for is an email address.
If someone doesn’t have an email, they only ask for a phone number.
And if someone doesn’t have a phone number?
“We only ask that you bring the book back,” Jaurretche said.
Patrons can also buy books, usually at a discounted price.
Libros Schmibros is one part of Hammer’s larger push to engage with the undergraduate population this year, as well as emphasize the concept that one can be both an intellectual and a lighthearted individual, Mendelman said.
While in Westwood Village, Libros Schmibros is collaborating with different UCLA literary groups, including Westwind literary journal and the English Graduate Union, to establish a temporary home base in the Village.
“We see ourselves as a place where books and people and writers and art and artists come together,” Jaurretche said. “We hope that that’s going to be a winning combination for us.”
Resurrecting an old English department tradition, the bookstore will host an all-day marathon reading of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” with the UCLA English Graduate Union and the Friends of English on Sept. 22. The reading will take place from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“We are really looking forward to the start of fall quarter and seeing lots of students and faculty coming through our doors,” Jaurretche said.
The bookstore also plans to sponsor a crosstown event involving the UCLA Westwind literary journal. Three undergraduate students from the journal will be reading their work Sept. 24 at the Boyle Heights location.
Although still in the planning stages, the reading may also include poetry by student contributors to Westwind, said Johnny Nelson, former Westwind executive editor and a recent UCLA alumnus.
The reading will be an opportunity to mix modern writing and other literary avenues, including some more eclectic poetry, Nelson said.
“It is bringing UCLA to Boyle Heights, in the same way that Boyle Heights has been brought here,” Mendelman said.
Jaurretche, who completed both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in English at UCLA, said she is returning to her roots with the bookstore.
Remembering the Westwood of her youth ““ including bookstores such as Westwood Books, Sisterhood Books and Chapman Books ““ Jaurretche said she feels privileged to be bringing back some literary tradition to the Village, which currently does not have any bookstores.
Libros Schmibros is actively searching for funding partners and donations to stay in Westwood after the de-installation of the store in the Hammer on Oct. 9, Jaurretche said.
“Opening day, we had students come by and leave with big stacks of books,” she said. “We want to keep getting great books to great people.”
With reports by Loic Hostetter, Bruin contributor.