Anchorage protesters want conservative deputy library director fired

People holding signs that say "Save our library" and "Judy needs to go!" stand shoulder to shoulder in front of a building.
Protesters rallied against Anchorage’s Deputy Library Director Judy Eledge in front of City Hall on Friday. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

A group of protesters gathered in front of Anchorage’s City Hall on Friday to demand an investigation of the city’s deputy library director, Judy Eledge.

About 30 people rallied against Eledge, holding signs that said “Judy needs to go” and “Save our library,” while several speakers took turns detailing what they said was a hostile work environment and a non-inclusive library under Eledge’s conservative leadership, as well as allegations that Eledge has made homophobic and racist comments.

The protest follows turmoil within Anchorage’s library system, which has seen employees quit and accuse Eledge of being hostile and offensive. The city’s director of the Office of Equal Opportunity started an investigation, but Mayor Dave Bronson abruptly fired her after seven years on the job.

Rozlyn Grady Wyche, president of the Alaska Coalition of BIPOC Educators, said she feels like the library that she grew up visiting is now under attack.

Whether the mayor wants to read about it or not, she said, the former employees’ grievances have been documented and should be addressed.

“Facts that are on paper, black and white, telling about the toxic environment, telling about the harassment, telling about all this stuff that’s going on,” Grady Wyche said. “Somebody needs to be held accountable.”

There were also about 20 counter protesters on the sidewalk holding signs nearby, some wearing “I’m with Judy” T-shirts, who, at times, tried to shout over the protest group’s portable public address system.

A group of people hold signs that say "We love Judy" and "We stand with Judy"
Counter protesters gathered to show support for Judy Eledge in front of Anchorage’s City Hall on Friday. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

Anna Deal was there with three of her four kids and said she supported Eledge, who had been her 4th grade teacher.

Eledge is trying to make the library more politically neutral, Deal said, equating some events at the library, like Drag Queen Story Hour, with political activism.

“I don’t think what she’s doing is homophobic or racist. Nobody’s saying that homosexual people can’t go to the library,” Deal said. “They’re simply saying, we, parents, want to have a say in the sexual education of their children. And all adults are welcome, all children are welcome, and certain views that not all people share should be kept more private.”

Mayor Bronson’s spokesman, Corey Allen Young, made an impromptu appearance at the protest, glancing at the two different groups before returning back inside City Hall. Young said he had no comment before stepping into an elevator, and he did not return a call later in the day.

RELATED: Anchorage’s top library administrator was being investigated for workplace complaints. Bronson fired the investigator.

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Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org.