Bicycle Libraries: The Class of 2050

submission by kipend

About Your Organization

Organization name(s):

Libros Schmibros

Organization website:

Organization Twitter handle:

Organization Facebook page:

Organization Instagram:

Describe your organization (check only one):

Nonprofit organization

For-profit organization



Please describe yourself (check only one):

Solo actor (just us on this project!)

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.


Libros Schmibros will roll out bicycle libraries to irrigate the book deserts of Los Angeles!



Libros Schmibros is a Boyle Heights-based lending library that puts low-or no-cost books into all hands, rich and poor, Eastside and West.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County? Check only one.

Yes (benefits all of LA County)

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Yes (benefits a population of LA County)


Please write a sample tweet to describe your submission.


We @LibrosSchmibros will roll out a fleet of youth-pedaled #BicycleLibraries 2 irrigate book deserts in Boyle Heights and beyond.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit? Check all that apply.

Central LA

East LA

South LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South Bay



If other, please specify.:

Our project will benefit Boyle Heights in particular and, through its emphasis on connection, Greater Los Angeles just as much.



" adoption of Newspeak had been fixed for so late a date as 2050.” -- last words, George Orwell’s 1984

Libros Schmibros proposes to roll out a fleet of “bespoke" Bicycle Libraries to circulate books citywide at farmers markets, grocery stores, loncheras and other Metro-adjacent congregating spaces, all staffed by the Class of 2050, a specially fielded cadre of student interns and volunteers. In collaboration with several local schools, bicycle experts, Metro, and Homeboy Industries, we aim to mentor a replenishable squadron of young cyclists, riding hard for literature against the forces of disconnection and loneliness.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?


Each Bicycle Library will carry a carefully curated precious cargo of approximately 25 books reflecting our most popular Boyle Heights inventory. This selection will emphasize books about Los Angeles, children’s books, genre fiction, counterculture staples, classic syllabus mainstays, and Latin American literature -- in both translation and the original language wherever possible. As with the foodtruck phenomenon, Bicycle Library appearances will be heavily promoted via social media. The bicycles will be powered by a team of 20 student volunteers.

In Fall 2014, we’ll field our Class of 2050 from our partner schools and refine protocols for the program. In Winter, these students will learn to work knowledgeably with our active collection and reserve stacks, talk about books with us, and interact with patrons. Before Spring, they’ll be ready to organize: each student will work with our coordinator to select a Metro-friendly itinerary, handpick stock, and venture into the public realm, where he or she will lend books, start conversations around them, and offer subsidized Libros Schmibros memberships. At least 50% of these rides will be in Boyle Heights and the greater Eastside, ultimately building on that base to reach the city beyond.



Bicycle Libraries will help make LA the best place to connect by:

1) conferring all the well-documented social benefits of voting, volunteering and civic-mindedness that reading uniquely promotes, and

2) fostering conversations among neighborhoods and people that would otherwise have little occasion to meet.

There aren’t many places where Angelenos are happy to see each other. Strangers may exchange smiles while walking on the beach, if it’s not too crowded, or on hiking trails. Maybe at Dodger Stadium too, provided we’re winning. Overall, though, the list of places in L.A. where we can make a thoughtful, innocent, face-to-face connection with our neighbors isn’t getting any longer.

Enter Bicycle Libraries. Stocked with 20-30 good books, yet small enough to fit snugly under a student volunteer, Bicycle Libraries can go where Libros Schmibros can’t, propping its custom kickstand wherever books aren’t sold – or even readily available. These sturdy ambassadors of Libros will create outposts of intelligent conversation in public spaces, and also beckon new borrowers back to our lively mothership on Mariachi Plaza.

By 2050, the web of connections engendered by the original Bicycle Libraries and their successors will be proliferating more than ever. Neighborhoods that once knew each other only from traffic reports will hold no terrors for their crosstown neighbors. Immigrant writers fired with the inspiration to be found in books and bookish conversation will have found a broad readership, just as immigrants to America a hundred years ago -- in rough neighborhoods not so different from Boyle Heights -- created much of what we cherish in 20th-century American literature.

If 1984 teaches us anything, it’s that the good guys aren’t the only ones looking ahead to 2050. Powerful forces would love nothing more than a Los Angeles full of docile, disconnected nonvoters, easily manipulated consumers, and suspicious door-bolters. A cynic might say such a city is already here. But every book shared -- and every friendship forged around it -- is a stay of execution against that future. Bicycle Libraries can become the emblem of an alternate future for Los Angeles: intelligent, convivial, green, gregarious and, yes, connected.



“It was expected that Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or standard English, as we should call it) by about the year
2050...Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Byron, Dickens, and some others were therefore in process of translation: when the task had been completed, their original writings, with all else that survived of the literature of the past, would be destroyed.”
-- George Orwell’s 1984

Our Bicycle Libraries project will benefit:

1) new Libros Schmibros borrowers around the Greater Eastside who haven’t discovered us yet
2) lapsed readers in other book deserts citywide with limited access to good books
3) less working-class, more wired neighborhoods who nevertheless lack both ready access to browsable printed books and, arguably more important, a sense of connectedness to Boyle Heights and other less fortunate offramps
4) Libros Schmibros itself, with a virtuous circle of increased reading rates and connectedness leading to increased support, leading in turn to increased service hours and inventory, leading back to even more increased reading rates and connectedness
5) our Class of 2050, the cadre of 20 initial Bicycle Library student volunteers, who will absorb more deeply the social good of reading even as they help instill it in their fellow Angelenos.

Underlying all this are census studies from the decennial Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, which correlate both educational and personal satisfaction with one factor above any other: books in the home.

Yet ours remains a city of book deserts as deprived as any food desert. The Class of 2050 will seek to avert the disconnected, debased public discourse portended for that year in Orwell’s dystopian future. Instead, we mean to seed a book garden nourished by the intelligence, civility and creativity that good books engender, and begin to make it bloom.

The paramount benefit will be to put more books into people’s hands, to knit up the bones of a too often disconnected, fragmented metropolis through the transformative power of good reading. By serving as a social catalyst and perpetuating our initiative beyond our proudly Boyle Heights-centric example, the Class of 2050 will model the Los Angeles we have been waiting for -- one blessedly free of book deserts.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.


So far, Libros Schmibros has laid considerable groundwork for partners and/or collaborators around Los Angeles. We have already confirmed the participation of:

1) Homeboy Industries, to park bikes next to their farmer’s market tables
2) Metro, where we are a Destination Discount partner, thus providing in-kind advertising benefits to the program
3) Roosevelt High School, among others, and their Academy of Environmental & Social Policy (ESP), which will help identify qualified students as volunteers
4) Loyola High School, which will adapt a portion of our initiative to suit their remarkable 80-hour service commitment for seniors, as well as additional appropriate roles for sophomores and juniors
5) Pasadena City College, with further coordination coming from its Puente Program focusing on Spanish and Latin American literature
6) East Los Angeles Community College, which has already recommended several students -- drawn especially from their resurgent literary magazine, Milestone
7) UCLA Volunteer Services, which has agreed to post the opportunity prominently, with the additional possibility of a Service Learning component
8) the Pomona College English Department
9) Flying Pigeon LA, our bike consultant, purveyor, and connector to the larger bike community for this project.

Critical to the success of our collaboration will be:
1) clear, timely communication among all partners,
2) written protocols for volunteering and service hours, and
3) getting the word out so that enthusiastic students will apply.

Fortunately, Libros Schmibros is already connected to every named partner either through teaching experience, current staff, past programs, or agreements and relationships with Libros advisory committee members.

How will your project impact the LA2050 "CONNECT" metrics?

Rates of volunteerism

Voting rates by race

Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support

Median travel time to work

Attendance at cultural events

Number of public transit riders

Participation in neighborhood councils

Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally (Dream Metric)

Government responsiveness to residents’ needs (Dream Metric)

Transit-accessible housing and employment (the share of housing units and percentage of jobs that are located within a half-mile of transit) (Dream Metric)

Total number of social media friends (Dream Metric)

Attendance at public/open street gatherings (Dream Metric)

Residential segregation (Dream Metric)

Access to free wifi (Dream Metric)


Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.:

1 & 8) Volunteerism, 2) voting, and 5) attendance at events/gatherings: Former NEA Chairman Dana Gioia may have put it best in the NEA study Reading at Risk:
“More than reading is at stake...readers play a more active and involved role in their communities. The decline in reading, therefore, parallels a larger retreat from participation in civic and cultural life. The long-term implications of this study not only affect literature but all the arts – as well as social activities such as volunteerism, philanthropy, and even political engagement."
3) One look inside Libros on any given day should suffice to demonstrate our ability to provide adults with social and emotional support. Our regulars include the homeless, the destitute and the just plain lonely. They form a small part of our principal mission, but if we can be a kind of literary drop-in center for at-risk adults, we’ll take that too.
6) Encouraging people not just to enjoy our Bicycle Libraries but to take public transit back to Libros in the ensuing weeks will drive foot traffic to the thousands of books in our brick-and-mortar shopfront, where what we offer won’t be limited to what we can pedal. It will also to encourage Angelenos to explore their big, beautiful, sometimes daunting city via public transportation, and challenge transit riders to get off someplace they’ve maybe never explored before.
Beyond the several Dream Metrics already cited, we also expect to address these:
11) Our social media friends, followers and connections, who continue to proliferate (even more thanks to this application)
12) Attendance at public/open streets gatherings, which has risen markedly since Libros’ arrival on Mariachi Plaza. The advent of the Bicycle Libraries initiative will bring regular visits from our 20 student volunteers, and a significant uptick from the 25 contacts they are required to make on their 10 rides apiece. That's 5,000 people touched by this Bicycle Libraries initiative alone.
13) As for residential segregation, Boyle Heights used to rank among the most diverse census tracts in the nation. Now it numbers among the least. A little more integration probably couldn’t hurt, provided that the essential character of the neighborhood remains and longtime residents aren’t priced out.
14) Free wifi has been part of Libros’ permanent amenities from day one.


LA is the best place to LEARN

LA is the best place to CREATE

LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

LA is the best place to PLAY



Bicycle Libraries is the Libros equivalent of fieldwork. We’ll evaluate the project in the following ways, each a measure of success:
1) Each student will keep a record of how many people he or she signed up. Field notes will also be prepared and shared.
3) Each new member will be asked to contact us, whether electronically or otherwise, and respond to their book or to their encounter with our volunteer.
3) All new members will be invited back to Libros, and their demographic and geographic data carefully tabulated.



Lesson #1: Books are a way to get people to connect. This is the basic lesson of Libros, and the essence of the project so far. Bicycle Libraries will be integral to Libros because they will promote connection around our neighborhood and across the city at large.

Lesson #2: People want to make their way to a space that nourishes them emotionally and socially. Libros Schmibros specializes in books, but we also provide community space for the nourishment of ideas and the imagination. The Bicycle Libraries project will invite up to 5,000 more people, one per book, to come back to Libros and connect with their fellow readers and city-dwellers.

Explain how implementing your project in the next twelve months is an achievable goal.


Libros Schmibros is practiced in the art of talking about books. We have capacity for training our interns in engaging the public, and we can maximize their enthusiasm about literature and the ways books connect people to each other. Moreover, we have already laid significant groundwork with our partner schools, meeting with faculty and administrators, and talking over the mechanics of student interns. With this grant, we can effectively manage these capacities and create a program that uses the joys of reading to connect many more Angelenos.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?


Our first challenge is to find the best spaces where people congregate. The solution lies in realizing that food deserts and book deserts align, and working alongside loncheras, farmer's markets, taquerias, and other food outlets, taking our books directly to people.
The second challenge is obtaining permission from every individual farmers' market, especially along the Gold Line. To meet that challenge we’ve partnered with Homeboy Industries, and will begin at once to garner market permissions to ride up next to Homeboy tables and offer books from our bikes.


Money (financial capital)

Volunteers/staff (human capital)

Publicity/awareness (social capital)

Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)


Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)

Community outreach

Network/relationship support

Quality improvement research

24 Pink talk bubble tail c96b4a07ef1417e25d0bcf5c4cba4766b8bbf0382f07677990a9d5577885d4d7

Pedal on, Oldspeak spokes man!

by jspaulding
over 1 year ago

Good luck to Libros Schmibros! A great service that needs to be expanded and this bicycle libraries project is the perfect way to do that. I'm excited just to see bikes of books rolling through Boyle Heights and surrounding communities, let alone all of LA.

by beaming_tako
over 1 year ago

What an incredible idea! I love the idea of taking Libros Schmibros beyond the borders of the building into the street of Boyle Heights and beyond. This sounds like it will create a tighter community.

by f.ilm
over 1 year ago

What book changed your life -- and why? You know something's officially a meme when even the Minot, S.D., Daily News is asking for your 10 most influential reads. So forget 10. You guys are smart, or you wouldn't have voted for BicycleLibraries. Which one book and why?

by kipend
over 1 year ago

Terrific idea from a great little bookstore & library. Bicycles, books, human interaction -- we need more of all that in the city of L.A. -- and I love the combination.

by bluemichellela
over 1 year ago

Vote! Write your comments! Help put books and bikes on the streets of LA!

by Schmibros
over 1 year ago

Books and bikes and Boyle Heights - what's not to love?

by Molfe
over 1 year ago

In a city as big as L.A., programs are most effective when we bring them to people directly. Bicycle Libraries are a perfect fit for our big crazy city.

by CherylKlein
over 1 year ago

A great idea, and one I'd love to participate in. My bike baskets could hold lots of books!

by dcwatson
over 1 year ago

The bicycle library is a terrific extension of the work of Libros Schmibros. It's about books and building community.

by beiderwe
over 1 year ago

"It was expected that Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or standard English, as we should call it) by about the year 2050...Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Byron, Dickens, and some others were therefore in process of translation: when the task had been completed, their original writings, with all else that survived of the literature of the past, would be destroyed.”

by georgeorwell 66 years ago | Reply

by kipend
over 1 year ago

Awesome Latin window dressing in this video. They have the decor, they show a few young Latinos laughing and smiling but not actually speaking, that of course is left for one of the decision makers.

Which appears to be the model for the organization, a board and group of decision makers primarily, if not sometimes completely, composed of white people who don't live in the neighborhood seeking out young unpaid Latino volunteers to do the day to day work for them while they socialize and promote their names and interests.

It probably would have been strange to show a video of them receiving this grant and then using the money to send unpaid volunteers from a low income neighborhood out to Westwood or Malibu to hand out low-or no-cost books into the hands of the rich but at least they were honest in stating it is one of their top 3 priorities. As it is the video seems a little disingenuous in only showing supposed Eastside interactions.

As someone who lives in the neighborhood I check in when I go by. I used to hope that at some point the organization would be more representative of the neighborhood, more so than just putting up some token papel picado but it doesn't really seem like it will.

by ormigas
over 1 year ago

Great and original idea. I hope it will become reality soon.

by gkalman
over 1 year ago

I love everything about Libros Schmibros. A great bookstore and a wonderful mission. Long may it run!

by timware
over 1 year ago

I like this concept! Bicycles are approachable, and bring books to people at a human level.
Just as police departments report success by bringing police back to the people, bicycles and books will reach kids and adults on the street.
Marcia Elias

by marciaelias
over 1 year ago

Libros Schmibros is the real deal.
They are 100% genuine, and 100% right about the power of great books.
This is exactly the culture we are hungry for.

This project makes a direct impact because it literally puts great books into the hands of people, and this unlocks unlimited potential.

I believe that as a culture we care about our future to the extent that we invest in education.
Great books, or more accurately, the great ideas and great actions that derive from great books, are the most vital education we can offer ourselves and our culture.
This is our imperative and Libros takes us there.

So, Let's do it!

by doctorp
over 1 year ago

An awesome idea for a community in need. Not only does the organization bring books, but it's bringing low-carbon, low-cost, health-improving transportation to that same part of LA. Really great and progressive on many different levels. Promotes economic and environmental justice, as well as health for the community of Boyle Heights.

by steveyao
over 1 year ago

This is fantastic. A proposal that is so simple that anyone can see its value, so thought-out that I can already imagine the bikes rolling by, and so completely right for Los Angeles that I'll bet if they could, the eponymous Angels would drop what they're doing and volunteer to help.

by lifeinOLEG
over 1 year ago

Well, that about covers it! What a brilliant idea. This proposal is inspired, specific, reality-based, visionary, and promises immense public benefit if implemented. I endorse the idea wholeheartedly.

by karenleafygreen
over 1 year ago

Love this!

by phe02004
over 1 year ago

Let a thousand bicycle libraries, seed and water the imaginations of ALL Angelinos.

Nan Merritt

by nmerritt
over 1 year ago

Fabulous organization and great idea!

by cruzelena.sundquist
over 1 year ago

I would like to address your comment that the "board and group of decision makers [are] composed of white people" - the co-founder of Libros is from a hispanic (Mexican) family! It appears that you are judging a book by its cover--not sure if you are directly referring to the faces you see when you "check in when you go by", or if you are reaching this conclusion based on the surnames you have read. In this day and age it is very unfair to judge someone's ethnicity (and intent) solely on what you believe you see.

by CrosswordPuzzler
over 1 year ago

This is why we need this project: to overcome that "us" versus "them" mentality that divides our city.

by eastLAer
over 1 year ago

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Submission Began
Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Submission Ended
Thursday, July 31, 2014
at 07:00 PM UTC

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Voting Began
Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Voting Ended
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
at 07:00 PM UTC

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Special Olympics World Games 2015
Special Olympics World Games 2015

Winner Announced
Tuesday, September 30, 2014