The next time you need a bathroom break in the middle of scanning and skimming the Akron-Summit County Public Library stacks, you’ll find a new amenity waiting for you – Aunt Flow tampons and pads!
The Public Period Problem
ASCPL’s Deputy Director, Barbara White, believes that library guests should spend more time enjoying the library’s offerings and less time worrying about having access to tampons and pads. That dedication to the guests’ experience is why Barb and her team brought Aunt Flow to the Akron-Summit County Public Library!
“We started to think about what it means to come to the library to take a class, to work on your resume, to try to improve your computer skills, to participate in after-school snacks, to come for a concert and have to leave, and what the research shows is that the majority of menstruators have had the situation on more than one occasion where they are caught without supply. And this means they have to leave, which creates an inequitable situation in terms of access,” Barb White said about why they wanted to offer free period products.
According to Free The Tampons, 86% of menstruators say they’ve started their period in public without the supplies they need. That is a staggering and sobering snapshot of the widespread lack of period products for the general public. Luckily, Barb’s team was determined to provide a rock-solid solution to meet library-goers’ needs.
That’s where Aunt Flow comes in.
A New Chapter In Accessibility, Diversity, Inclusivity
Before Aunt Flow, ASCPL did not have a sustainable period product option. For a few years, they had low-cost products available only in women’s restrooms, but they eventually went out of use and were removed.
Wanting to serve the community and add to the library-going experience, Barb and her team became aware of the menstrual equity movement in various library systems. Inspired by the Columbus Metropolitan Library and the Bierce Library at the University of Akron, Barb looked into potential options for high-quality products that match ASCPL’s core values of promoting diversity and inclusion. By working with the Aunt Flow team, a period product plan was crafted to serve their needs perfectly:
With an initial cost of $6,900, the Summit County Library system is able to install 21 dispensers in 10 different libraries. They’ve just completed Phase 1 of their program, which included the order of products and installation of the Aunt Flow dispensers at the Akron-Summit County Public Main Library. The only additional costs going forward will be to restock and refill the tampons and pads across the different branches.
Adding Aunt Flow dispensers and period products for free to guests shows a commitment to helping others and will further menstrual equity in the Akron area for ALL menstruators. Barb explains, “By equity, what’s meant is that the unavailability of menstrual products, the idea that this is not as necessary as toilet paper, paper towels, or soap in a restroom, creates inequity in access to public resources and public spaces. It interrupts the school day and impacts the lives of girls, women, and transgender menstruators just in every aspect of being a participant in your community.
After a smooth installation process in July of this year, feedback from guests and customers has been very positive. Many guests have commented to staff how grateful they are to have Aunt Flow products at the ready if needed, including a Facebook post from a library guest expressing how happy they are for young menstruators to have this kind of access. Akron Library is now working on getting Phase 2 of their plan up and running to continue making the world better for people with periods!
Phase 2 of their period product program entails installing the period products at the nine other branches of their library system in early 2023. They also plan to double the number of dispensers in each branch, meaning every single bathroom would be stocked with Aunt Flow products!
The success of the program is thanks to Barb and her whole team at Akron-Summit County Public Library, including:
- Pamela Hickson-Stevenson, Executive Director
- Michelle Scarpitti, Fiscal Officer
- Peter Schantz, Facilities Director
- Carla Davis, Marketing & Communications Director
- Tim Hite, Social Media Specialist
When we asked Barb why she loves working with Aunt Flow, she shared that,
“Aunt Flow understands that both time and patience are required when working with a large organization and are enthusiastic about scaling a project as needed. From the initial fact-finding meeting until implementation and beyond, Aunt Flow’s team has been attentive, encouraging, and genuinely passionate in ensuring menstrual equity in our public spaces.”