AACPL Supporting Menstrual Health

Library addresses period poverty by providing menstrual supplies in public restrooms.

At Anne Arundel County Public Library, we are dedicated to fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for every individual who walks through our doors. It is with great excitement that we announce a significant initiative aimed at addressing period poverty.

This term refers to the unfortunate reality of individuals lacking access to menstrual supplies due to financial constraints, social stigma or limited education on the topic. Our goal is to make a positive change by ensuring that free menstrual hygiene products are readily available in all of our library restrooms. 

Unlike some libraries that require patrons to request menstrual supplies, we have taken proactive measures to eliminate any potential barriers, particularly for young individuals who may feel uncomfortable asking for assistance. In each of our restrooms, you will find carefully installed dispensers and containers, providing an easy and discreet means of accessing these essential products. Our intention is to alleviate the inconvenience and embarrassment that can often accompany managing menstruation in public spaces. 

The importance of this initiative is reinforced by statistics from a collaborative study conducted by Saint Louis University and Washington University in Missouri. They found that nearly two-thirds of people who menstruate (64%) were unable to afford necessary menstrual hygiene supplies in the previous year, with approximately one-fifth (21%) facing this struggle on a monthly basis. 

In 2021, the State of Maryland passed a law requiring each county board of education to ensure that each public school provides, at no charge to students, menstrual hygiene products via dispensers in women's restrooms at the school, requiring a public middle or high school to install menstrual hygiene dispensers in at least two women's restrooms by October 1, 2022, and all women's restrooms by August 1, 2025. 

Inspired by the State of Maryland's commitment to menstrual hygiene in schools, we were determined to extend this support to our library customers. We put forth a budget request to provide free menstrual supplies in the public restrooms of all our library branches, and we are thrilled to share that it was approved for our fiscal 2023 budget. 

Now, regardless of which library branch you visit, you can be confident that these essential products are readily available to you. Even at Discoveries: the Library at the Mall, where there is no public restroom, we have established a Community Pantry that not only distributes menstrual and hygiene products but also offers baby/infant supplies. This pantry relies on the generosity of community donations and grant funds to ensure access to these essential items. 

Community Pantry items include:

  • Pads and tampons
  • Incontinence supplies
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Baby soap and shampoo
  • ...and more!

Since implementing this new initiative, the response from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive. One grateful patron expressed her appreciation for the fact that we offer these supplies free of charge, expressing a desire for more establishments to follow suit. Another customer expressed deep gratitude for the availability of this service. We are humbled by the opportunity to provide this much-needed support to our community. 

At Anne Arundel County Public Library, our mission is to ensure that every individual feels welcome, supported and comfortable. By providing free menstrual products, we are taking a significant step toward alleviating the burden of period poverty and fostering a more inclusive and equitable community. 

So the next time you visit the library, remember that beyond finding an extensive collection of books or a quiet place to study, you can also find the peace of mind that comes from knowing we prioritize your needs. We are here to support you in every way we can.

Published July 19, 2023

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