For years, the Anchorage library system was run by radical hard-leftist administrators who utilized the public library to promote drag queen story hour for children, critical race theory book clubs, LGBTQ Pride Month celebrations and highly sexualized books about gender fluidity for youth.

Judy Norton Eledge

Things have changed a bit under the direction of Deputy Director Judy Norton Eledge. She has more than 40 years of educational experience, working for both the Anchorage School District and in rural Alaska, and has served as a teacher, principal and director of curriculum. Most recently, she has done educational consulting with a focus on literacy. She’s also a well known figure in Anchorage’s conservative political circles.

Last August, when Mayor Dave Bronson tapped her as head director of the city’s five libraries, the left-leaning super majority that controls the Anchorage Assembly adamantly refused to approve her nomination. They claimed she was unqualified because she lacked a library science degree. But part of the controversy was a concern that Eledge was not interested in using the library as a conduit for leftist ideology.

After the Assembly refused to confirm Eledge, Mayor Bronson made her “deputy” director in November, a post that does not require Assembly approval. Since that time, she has served as the highest-ranking administrator in the library system.

A group of library employees, however, are not happy with the direction Eledge has taken. Several have already quit, and others have filed formal complaints with the city, claiming Eledge creates a hostile work environment, utters offensive statements and makes them feel devalued.

On May 31, Alaska Public Media published a 1,700-word article airing a litany the complaints that disgruntled staffers have levied against Eledge. Prominently featured in the article was Jacob Cole, Eledge’s second in command, until he recently quit his job.

“I worry about the library’s future,” Cole told Alaska Public Media. “So many people have left because the mood amongst staff is so sad and negative.”

While the Alaska Public Media article included comments from several Eledge detractors, it failed to include a single interview with any employee or volunteer who supports Eledge and her leadership.

The Watchman, however, spoke with one long-time library employee, and another active library volunteer – both of whom had very different views on Eledge.

Joe Kline has worked at the library since 2006, serving under multiple directors during his 16 years. He currently works as a Librarian Assistant III. Not only does he appreciate Eledge’s leadership style, but he is also a firm supporter of changes she has made, most importantly her moves to make the library safer for patrons.

“I support her,” he said. “Judy has been an educator for a lot of years, and she’s been around thousands of people. I have no problems with her.”

Kline noted that Eledge recently instituted a new policy limiting the number of bags and personal items people can bring into the library. The policy came in response to an incident which occurred in February when a woman was stabbed in the back by mentally ill man as she was returning books.

Kline said the new policy, aimed at increasing patron safety, comes after years of well documented issues surrounding vagrancy and homelessness in and around the library.

“We have a big homeless problem here – you just can’t bring everything you own into the library,” Kline said.

But Kline hasn’t seen Eledge’s detractors supporting her efforts to increase safety. He said they have opposed her work from the beginning.

“They just don’t quit,” he observed. “They are like a pack of wolves.”

Many of these employees have now quit, Kline said.

“I don’t think the majority here now are opposed to Judy,” he said. “A lot of the people who didn’t like her have left, and they’re the ones causing the trouble now.”

While Eledge has come under fire for reviewing some library books that target young children with messages about gender identity and expression, Kline said it is a misnomer to think that she is out to push a radical conservative social agenda.

“Judy is not against any books, but she thinks there is age appropriateness,” he said. “Like, we shouldn’t have certain books on the shelf for the kindergarten kids. Parents can teach them whatever they want, but it’s not the library’s job to teach sexual orientation.”

Kline said he has never experienced Eledge creating a hostile work environment or belittling anyone.

“I can’t put any merit in that – I totally disagree,” he said. “I haven’t heard of anyone wanting to sit down and talk with her. They just want to pound their fists, after they leave.”

Kline said much of the tension goes back to the Anchorage Assembly and their refusal to collaborate with the mayor in filling leadership positions at the library.

Golden Afternoons is one of several new programs implemented by Judy Norton Eledge, the deputy director of the Anchorage library system.

“They hate the mayor and no matter what he does, they’re going to say it’s bad and awful,” he observed.

Jan Carolyn Hardy is a library volunteer who has worked at the Loussac Library for the past year to help coordinate the “Golden Afternoons” program. The monthly events provide food, activities, education and old-time movies for Anchorage’s senior residents.

Hardy said she has enjoyed working with Eledge in developing the program, which now sees 25 to 40 participants at each gathering.

“I’ve been working with her since last summer,” Hardy said. “She is very positive about working with elders, and she’s very positive about all the work because she’s been a teacher. She has a strong feeling for the educational part of the library – what the library can offer the community in terms of learning and engaging with cultures.”

Hardy said Eledge wants the library to be more than a portal for books and materials.

“But it distresses me when there is nothing but negative things coming out about Judy.”

“As a school principal she had to look at the overall picture of what was needed for students, and I think that is what her perspective is as she goes into her work at the library,” Hardy said. “She’s looking at what the library can offer and trying to engage people.”

Hardy doesn’t see Eledge’s lack of a library science degree as an impediment to her ability to lead the library.

“I know they want a librarian with a library science degree to run the place,” she said. “My mother was a librarian with a library science degree, and an educator. She was able to use not just her library science information but her educator background to help revive the library and the elementary school where she worked. It isn’t just a matter of checking out books. A library should be a center that is alive. That is part Judy’s plan – to make library more alive with more people and more programs.”

Having people on board who see this vision is a major key to making it successful, Hardy said.

“It depends on the people working there as to how successful she can be,” she said. “But it distresses me when there is nothing but negative things coming out about Judy.”

Click here to support Alaska Watchman reporting.

16-year staffer & senior volunteer defend besieged Anchorage library head

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Jim Northrup says:

    Glad to hear that there are two Eledge supporters out of the 350 library employees and volunteers.

    • Neil DeWitt says:

      Wa wa wa, grow up. It you don’t like a supervisor either quit or ask for a transfer. As long as she can do the job leave her alone. Sounds like she’s is making you do your job and you forgot how or refuse to do it. Maybe she should fire you!

    • Judy+Eledge says:

      Oh, Jim there are many more, I assure you. Only two were reached on short notice. We also do not have 350 employees. I believe we are around 89 and that includes Loussac and all the branch libraries.

  • Elizabeth Henry says:

    It sounds like Elledge is doing a great job! I would agree with the point above that it wouldn’t matter what she does those that simply don’t want her there, and want to retain the offensive exclusionary radical agendas, simply won’t like her and will cause as much trouble as possible.

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    Remember years ago renting a movie/dvd.
    The Bad stuff was in another room behind a curtain.
    All this horrible woke gay bull crap, it’s just wrong.
    All these books need to be in another building of its own. Not where we are children can see theses disgusting books.
    Let call this new building the way to hell.

  • Soriz says:

    Neil, there are only a small handful of employees that support her, and lately she has jumped onto the hiring process to cherry pick employees that do support her. Then inside, she has favored religious employees over others (even newer more qualified persons) and put them in positions where it was found that they can’t do the worked required of those positions that she promoted them too (talk about unqualified people promoting unqualified people…)

    Her Grammer is sometimes unreadable in emails sent out, missing links or wrong word usage that confuse staff. She has gone over HR and asks personal questions to new hires and staff trying to move up through the chain, and why? (I suspect to find out if there are qualities that support her agenda and apply those people more forward on the promotion/hiring chain, because there isn’t really a need to go Over HR and do that unless you have a mischief intent. I worked as a logistics manager for 8 years and NEVER have I heard of a top notch, going out of their way to ask personal questions before an interview date has been set that it outside of HR communications. And having poor Grammer at the same time for a first time impression to new hires.)

    Big take away, she hasn’t been able to do her Job properly, mismanagement is a constant, miscommunication is a constant (as we see with the 2 bag issue, she is not using the advisory board like she is suppose to *as the advisory board has said*, not informing staff and liasons to collaborating parties about these updates *no one I know of disagrees with her safety policys and I know a lot, just her action plan layouts of them, as they are not reaching everyone like they should.)

    To add on, I know people praise her for her educational time, but if she was really that good, why the hell dose she have such bad Grammer, and Communication issues both individually and in meetings? Is this the kind of education she was teaching to our youth all those years? How and why is that passing as a good job for a position of that caliber? If those basics are issues with her, why and how should anyone expect advanced skills in her duties to be flush and coherent?

  • Michael Chambers says:

    Judy is an excellent professional. The problem is that she is outspoken much like her detractors. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
    The library should not be used as a devise to promote political dogma, and there are certainly age appropriate limits to a multitude of books offered.
    Good job Judy

  • Rsz says:

    We elected Dave Bronson to right some of the wrongs here in Anchorage. Judy works at the pleasure of the mayor. She is the right person for that job. She may come across as rough around the edges (to some) but she’s getting the job done in what appears to be a very hostile environment with some folks who don’t want to see their entrenched agenda scrutinized. It takes a strong personality. Keep up the good work Judy. We stand with you!

  • Brad says:

    In reading Soriz’s post, I doubt that he/she should be the one questioning anyone’s grammar.