Enter The Sims Poetry Library

Sims Library of Poetry, a community library in Inglewood, was originally confined to founder Hiram Sims’ suitcase, but grew to fill an entire building after donations from poets and Angelenos. Today, the collection has more than 3,000 works, including many by local authors. (Fitz Cain | Daily Trojan)

To the passers-by of the avenue Florence, a building stands out from the facades. Nestled among the low display cases is a flat navy blue structure adorned with two metal screened windows and a large open book icon, “Sims Library of Poetry,” which reads in bold white letters.

Two murals adorn the front lot of the property. The one facing the street reads, in capital letters, “POETRY LIVES HERE”. To the right of the lot, on another blue brick wall, is a painting of the poet Langston Hughes accompanied by an edited version of his poem ‘Dreams’.

Hold on to dreams

For when dreams die

Life is a bird with broken wings

who cannot fly.

Hold on to dreams

For when the dreams go away

Life is a barren field

covered in snow.

Before The Sims Library of Poetry – a community library in Inglewood that provides patrons with a space to read, write and perform poetry – moved to its current residence, it lived out of a suitcase and then into a garage. But before that, it was a dream in the mind of founder Hiram Sims.

“I wanted to put ‘Dreams’ by Hughes on a wall because I think it’s important for every human being to not only have dreams, but to realize that you’ll have to hold onto the vision over time to achieve it” , Sims said.

Sims — a 38-year-old Los Angeles native, USC alumnus and poet — began peddling books of poetry by various authors from a suitcase when he taught a poetry class at the USC through the Community Literature Initiative. He said his students struggled to find books of poetry in local libraries for required reading, but Hiram’s suitcase became a reliable resource for students and local poets.

After some time and carpentry, Sims decided to expand his collection and open a library in his garage, enlisting friends from the poetic community to help.

“At the start of that day, we had my 300 pounds. All these poets came with boxes. By the end of that day, we had 2,000 books of poetry,” Sims said. “I realized you could do anything if you could get people to work together.”

The Sims Library moved into its current space in the summer of 2020, occupying what was previously a preschool that closed during the pandemic. He also transformed his predecessor’s playground into a spongy-floored outdoor patio with sofas for hosting weekly literary events like workshops, poetry readings and book launches.

The library manager, Karo Ska, helps organize many library events. Ska described a recent poetry reading, expressing appreciation for a diverse crowd of newcomers and pointing to the events as a source of exposure for the library.

“There were a lot of people who had never been to the library before, so everyone was like, ‘Wait, this place exists? Like, wow, that’s amazing,” Ska said. “It was cool to see people discovering it for the first time.”

The Sims Library now contains around 3,000 books. Its collection ranges from vintage copies of classics – like a second edition copy of Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” – to unique handmade periodicals. Many book donations come from Sims’ colleagues in the poetry community and from CLI alumni, many of whom are associated with the library.

Sims said he feels grateful to have found people who care about the library, and he is grateful to the patrons, friends and volunteer staff members who give their money, time and labor to the library. cause.

“If something happened to the library, they would fight to make sure it didn’t break down,” Sims said. “To me, that’s a bigger blessing than 1,000 or 1,000 pounds.”

Sims said one of his goals in opening the library was to encourage people to write poetry, and he believes poets are often discouraged from their artistic ambitions. Many library volunteers, including Ska, are poets themselves who found the Sims Library through CLI courses.

Volunteer Aujrel Pittman said being on staff at CLI and the Sims Library helped him realize the potential of his own poetry.

“For me, it allowed me to finally say that I can do something professional with my writing,” Pittman said. “I can take my diary and put it on a shelf at Barnes and Noble… It’s not just, ‘Oh yeah, I’m a writer. I picked it up at home.

To further encourage patrons to write, the library also houses a private writing room and work tables with laptops and a printer. Sims said that by visiting other libraries and planning his own, he received sage advice.

“A library is a place where people can do their work. So you have to create things in your space where people can do their own thing,” Sims said. “I thought it was powerful – computers, chairs, books, Wi-Fi, right?”

The library found its way to Inglewood out of necessity, Sims said. He promised his students in the fall of 2019 that he would move his garage library to a different space by the end of the school year, and the closure of the preschool in 2020 presented him with a practical opportunity. and affordable.

Sims also said he lived near the building, so he already knew the local community well. He said he feels especially valued when new visitors who live nearby come in and express their appreciation for the library’s presence, and he’s grateful to be able to bring something new to the area.

“It makes me happy for these black and brown people to say they’re proud we’re here,” Sims said. “And, to me, that’s indicative of a community, right? When a community says, ‘You are welcome here.’

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