Oh, happy day! We were so thrilled when Leah Leach emailed us with the fabulous news that her mission to open a Gal’s Guide Library celebrating women’s history is finally coming to fruition.
“After over a year of meetings, emails, hard work, and a lot of sleepless nights, we have a space in Noblesville, IN to call our own and it’s crazy wonderful,” she said. The location is a studio in Nickel Place Arts and the library will open its doors with a celebration on March 6 where you’ll be able to sign up for a library account, peruse the over 1600 books already in their collection, and mingle with other women’s history buffs.
Much like Indy Maven, Gal’s Guide to the Galaxy is on a mission to share women’s stories. The non-profit’s goal is to “build an independent women’s history library and research center in the United States to preserve, collect, share, and champion women’s achievements and lessons learned.”
It’s shocking, and yet totally not, that such an institution does not already exist. But here we are.
Thankfully, there are places like Gal’s Guide doing the important work to make sure these stories will not be forgotten.
Gal’s Guide informally started in 2013 in Indianapolis as a group called Women Empowering Balance (WEB). Leah Leach, the organization’s executive director, invited women into her home to talk about topics facing women today. The group then branched out beyond Indiana to women of all backgrounds, experiences, and ages. In 2016, WEB became Gal’s Guide and filed as an educational nonprofit 501c3.
In 2019, Gal’s Guide had a goal to add 1,000 women’s history books to its collection. It reached this goal in 9 months thanks to a grant, Patreon supporters, and book donations. They also launched a podcast.
Gal’s Guide to the Galaxy is a nod to the movie Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
What’s next in 2020?
“A big goal for 2020 is to host a pop-up event,” Leach says. “We have two windows of opportunity to host a month-long preview of what the Gal’s Guide Library & Research Center could be. Unless there is a major in-kind donation or we win a massive grant, we are 2+ years away from being able to open our library full time. So we’re aiming to open a pop-up event during Women’s History Month (March) or the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment (August).”
The event would include workshops, author readings, craft nights, and trivia nights, as well as a preview of their collection of women’s history books.
“We want the location to be much more than a library. We want it to be a community center where people can feel welcomed and inspired,” she explains. “We are looking to combine a library, a (coffee shop) and a cozy living room; a place where our “guides” are like cast members from Disney World, and the energy is positive and world-changing like at a Girl Scout meeting.”
Stay tuned for news of a crowd-funding effort soon. Another major goal is to add 1,000 more women’s history books to the collection each year.
The Gal’s Guide Podcast is launching its second season on January 6—and if you haven’t checked it out yet, add it to your subscription list immediately. (It’s totally free on all the apps you usually listen to your podcasts.)
“We take the information of the amazing women we find in the library and we share it in a Drunk History-like way,” Leach says. “We have a theme for each month, then we gather four friends who each bring to the show one cool thing they have learned. You never know what the gals will bring to the table.” The next theme on the docket: First Ladies.
Show Your Support
Leach says the best ways Indy women can get involved are to “join our Patreon, volunteer, subscribe to our podcast, or follow us on social media.”
“Our Patreon helps us with much-needed funds for the pop-up and adding to the book collection, but it also keeps our supporters connected to the work Gal’s Guide does in the community even before we have a physical location,” she says. “None of our staff gets paid. Everything that is donated is put to use to shine a spotlight on women’s history. We’ve done a lot with limited funds but an independent library is going to need more. Patreon is the single largest way to help us. It shows us that people believe that women’s history is worth preserving and sharing.”
Volunteering your time is another easy way to help the cause. “We need book hunters, book reviewers, marketing magicians, fundraising phenoms, writers, researchers and more,” Leach says. You can sign up here.
The Politics of It All
You won’t see Gal’s Guide endorsing political organizations or candidates in the 2020 election—but they will offer “road maps and hope,” according to Leach.
“Women have overcome tremendous obstacles before having the ability to get a loan, vote, or have custody of her own children,” she says. “Women’s history is filled with stories of role models who—just like you—are trying to make sense of a complicated world. We bring to light stories women trailblazers, pioneers, rule breakers, and change-makers. All these stories are breadcrumbs on your journey of self-discovery. We are simply your guide.”
For more information on Gal’s Guide to the Galaxy, check out their website: galsguide.org.
Abby Gardner is the executive editor of Indy Maven, a lifelong feminist, and a devout lover of libraries.