Hiram Sims stands outside Sims Library of Poetry in South L.A. (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

In the heart of Los Angles at first glance, it might be easy to miss, but Sims Library of Poetry is like a caterpillar that blossoms into a beautiful butterfly.

USC alumnus Hiram Sims founded the library after he was teaching classes on poetry, children’s books and short fiction at USC. He challenged his students to read one book of poetry a week and after finding that his students were struggling to find poetry books, Sims came with a suitcase that contained 80 poetry books that his students could borrow.

The original suitcase that Sims used to share poetry books with his students is displayed in the foyer. (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

In appreciation, one student commented, “This is Sims Library of Poetry.” Those words were the catalyst for Sims to start a library in his garage. Later, he transferred his books to a building that previously housed a day care center located at 2702 West Florence Avenue in South L.A.

“We knew we wanted to have a larger facility,” explained Sims, who added that his library offers space to read, write, study, perform, and cherish poetry to the South Los Angeles community. On display in the building’s foyer is the original suitcase that Sims used to share poetry books with his students.

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Sims and his brother built the bookshelves along the walls of the beautiful and cozy library, which features 7,250 books of poetry – the majority by poets of color.  Also, the space contains several computers with internet access and a small private writing room, both available for visitors to use. The spacious outdoor patio holds a long, sectional couch providing plenty of room for people to read poetry.

The library features 7,250 books of poetry, mostly by writers of color. (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

The facility, which opened on July 6, 2021, is the first Black-owned poetry library in the state of California.  The library is painted in shades of blue and the mural at the entrance of the library says boldly, “Poetry lives here.”

“Every Saturday, there is Poetry Mic, and we have lectures and panel discussions as well during the week.  Schoolchildren also come to tour the facility and they are treated to someone reading them poetry,” said Sims.

In addition, Sims aids aspiring writers through the Community Literature Initiative (CLI), his nonprofit founded in 2013. “The purpose of the initiative is to help writers of color finish and publish books,” Sims said.

Another component of CLI is the World Stage Press where students can learn to publish their own books of poetry. “The heart of what we do at the library is poetry,” noted Sims, who is a full-time instructor at the library.

One of Sims’ former students, Ruddy Lopez of Inglewood, stated, “It is my experience that the courses offer a way to demystify the publishing process, and it helps to know your next steps once you write your book.” Lopez wrote a book of poetry entitled, “Seeds Planted up North.”

An image and a poetry by author and poet Langston Hughes decorates the library’s outdoor fence. (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

Sims earned his B.A. in English from USC in 2005. Later, he received his M.A. in Creative Writing with an emphasis on poetry.  As an adjunct professor at USC, he teaches English with an emphasis of creative writing.

Earlier this year, Sims was appointed by Mayor Karen Bass to serve on the city’s Board of Library Commissioners. The five-member commission oversees the personnel and operations of the Library Department and its 73 branch libraries.

Sim Library of Poetry is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. The library is funded by Sims, his friends, and donations from the community.

To learn more or to donate to the library, visit simslibraryofpoetry.org or (323) 531-2511.