Linda Klein, who until recently worked at the Anchorage Public Library (APL) as the youth services librarian, was the 2012 recipient of the American Library Association’s Penguin Random House Young Readers Group Award. The award provided a $600 stipend to up to four children’s librarians to attend their first American Library Association Annual Conference.
Klein was selected for the award because she provided outreach to students at Crossroads, an alternative public school for pregnant teens, and was known for constantly seeking out opportunities to collaborate with various community partners in an effort to bring events to the library.
An April 5 post on the library’s Facebook page announced that Klein, who had served on the prestigious Caldecott Award Committee, had selected thousands of books for the library’s collection, had pulled off hundreds of in-person and virtual storytimes and who dedicated over a decade of service to the community was leaving the Anchorage Public Library.
Klein’s recent departure from the APL follows the March resignation of Laura Baldwin, a nearly 15 year veteran of the library who served continually as collection management services coordinator.
Since leaving the library, Klein has turned into somewhat of an anti-censorship activist. Prominently displayed at the top of her Facebook profile is a Fahrenheit 451 banner and she has encouraged others to sign a petition which calls for Anchorage Mayor David Bronson to remove Judy Eledge from her leadership position at the library.
Eledge, Mayor Bronson’s one-time unqualified pick to run the APL, resigned from her role as director last November to avoid Assembly confirmation. She now serves as deputy director, where some library employees say she has fostered a toxic work environment and has systematically worked to censor LGBTQ material from the library’s collection.
Klein also started a GoFundMe, hoping to raise a thousand dollars to help cover the $940 price tag associated with a public records request seeking communications between Eledge, Mayor Bronson, library staff and the Library Advisory Board that might contain language related to LGBTQIA+ book titles, characters, plots, or issues. On April 13, Klein said she was expanding her records request to include search terms related to those experiencing homelessness, Native Alaskans, librarians and liberal left-wing agendas.
Klein’s GoFundMe has exceeded its $1000 goal and has raised an incredible $2,895.
I reached out to Klein via email to ask about her fundraising efforts, unqualified individuals now working at the library and what led her to resign from an institution she has served for over a decade:
1. How do you feel about exceeding your original fundraising goal and what, if anything, does that level of support mean to you?
“Having exceeded the goal has given me the opportunity to request additional information that might expose more details about the administration’s true agenda. There are many layers of lies and half truths being perpetuated behind closed doors, and we need to bring this all out in the open. I already knew people value the library and what it brings to a community. Having this financial demonstration of support is encouraging and I feel, now more than ever, this process must continue.”
2. Do you have any thoughts about what has been written/reported thus far about what is said to be transpiring behind the scenes at APL?
“Without going into specifics, I can verify that many of the issues that I have become aware of were reported to me by accurate, trustworthy sources. I have no doubt that what we know right now is the tip of a very dirty iceberg.”
3. How do you feel about individuals who lack the necessary prerequisite qualifications working at APL?
“The bottom line is it’s a disservice to the community. The public pays for, expects, and deserves a functioning library, and right now they do not have one. They cannot have one without a qualified leader running APL. Going a step further, not only are Eledge and Demboski unqualified to be library directors, in whatever guise that may be, but they are actively seeking to control the community’s free access to information and promote a repressive, right-wing agenda.”
4. Since your departure follows the resignation of Laura Baldwin, I have to ask whether your resignation was in any way related to what’s been going on behind the scenes at APL i.e. censorship and the dismantling of adopted norms and standards?
“I became increasingly more frustrated at the actions being taken [at APL] and felt there was nothing I could do to prevent this from happening. I have worked for many years to help build a robust youth collection that represents the entire community. To be accused of bias and having an agenda cut me to the core. My mental health and, as a result, my physical health were being negatively impacted. Every week I told myself, it can’t get any worse. Time and again I was proven wrong.”
The petition seeking Eledge’s removal from her role as deputy director of the Anchorage Public Library surpassed 900 signatures yesterday morning.