Eliza Wexelman is cofounder of Girls at the Library—an online journal dedicated to women who love their literature. Wexelman, who I know from my hometown of Chicago, where she attended college, couldn’t be a better poster child for the cause. She has done an excellent job of rallying smart, savvy women around the stuff that truly bonds us—like our bookcases.
Who is the GAL team exactly?
It’s just my business partner and I, illustrator and painter Payton Cosell Turner. Right now, we both work full-time so we’re just tapping into Los Angeles, where I live, and New York City as our target markets. We want to make sure that before we hit other markets we have everything solid on the back end.
Makes sense. Why did you start Girls at the Library in the first place?
We started the website back in October of 2015 because when we both lived and worked in New York, we’d borrow books from each other all of the time. Books were just what we talked about, and we particularly loved sharing recommendations with one another. We also were always curious about what our friends were reading and wanted to create one giant hub to share all of this information.
Why does finding out what others read intrigue you?
It really helps you get into the mind of another person. It’s interesting because you gain a lot of insight about the individual—specifically by what they gathered from a book. We all see the world differently, and that is also true about literature.
Has reading always been a huge passion for you?
While growing up in St. Louis, my family and I always went to the library and had stacks of books around the house. My parents read to us when we were little and made it very clear that this was important. I loved picking out the books, which is why I wanted to create an online guide. I wanted to make it easy for readers to select what goes on their bookcase.
Do you delegate time to read each week?
Yes. I am very deliberate about it even if it’s just ten minutes in the morning or evening. I read the news daily and I also try to read something creative as well.
What is your favorite part about physically holding a book?
It feels more natural to hold a book, rather than cuddling up with a Kindle on your couch, because you have more control. Also, it’s just more convenient than charging a tablet.
It made me so happy to see your site, which showcases cool, sexy women reading books. You make reading cool again!
We definitely wanted our site to be visually pleasing. It wasn’t that I needed someone to validate reading but, honestly, a lot of the popular literature sites weren’t easy to navigate. I’ve always loved reading supplemental books, like a biography about Emily Bronte, before diving into Wuthering Heights, which is a section of the website I wanted as well. Reading more than one book about a subject makes the reading experience so much more impactful. You have more context!
How do you select the women whom you profile?
They are people that we find interesting and thought, they probably have interesting bookcases as well. Most people we knew from afar had quirky personalities and loved books. We wanted to share what they know. The women we interview use their bookshelves to shape their personalities, personal stories and lives.
How did you get the word out about Girls at the Library?
By emailing friends and posting about it. We post weekly and are still trying to figure out how to diversify our content and create a wider readership. Our goal is to show that reading is cool across the board—not just for one type of woman.
But people say that people don’t read anymore!
(Laughs) Yes. I think because there aren’t as many brick-and-mortar bookstores, and most people buy their books on Amazon. We don’t see them selecting their books at the store or reading in public as much. But I think those who were always big readers are still reading. Actually, I know so.
Love that. So, what do you get out of GAL?
I love seeing women bond over something other than beauty, makeup and clothes. Honestly, it’s just awesome to witness that firsthand. That’s my favorite thing about it all.