The Garland County Library introduced new Aunt Flow feminine hygiene product dispensers last month, offering free products discreetly from the restroom.
Tiffany Hough, the youth services director, and Katie Allen, the children's librarian, were first introduced to the idea during a conference in Cincinnati, Hough said.
"So, it's been a while since we first heard of the idea of a library offering menstrual products," Hough said.
"And we both went, 'Oh, well that completely makes sense.' And then COVID happened and kind of put everything on the back burner.
"And so, we started looking at it again, and looked at some different products and offerings and decided (on) Aunt Flow. There were some Arkansas libraries who were using Aunt Flow products, and they had good things to say."
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Hough and Allen spoke with an employee at Aunt Flow, a company stocking public bathrooms in businesses and schools with menstrual products, who advised them how to move forward with a quote. The first stock of products was funded by the library's janitorial funds, Allen said, noting the products will be restocked with nontax account funds.
Claire Coder, founder and CEO of Aunt Flow, "just wanted everyone to have access to period products when needed without having to worry, and we want the same thing for our patrons here," Allen said. "And their company is very much about sustainability and availability."
Hough said the library had noticed a need for the dispensers, noting a number of patrons would come up to the front desk, asking for products.
"We have had patrons a number of times come up to the front desk, embarrassed because they needed help, that they got stuck without a product," she said. "We were able to provide that just through our own products, you know, the employees were just able to help the person."
Hough said the library doesn't want patrons to have to come to the front desk or children's desk to ask for help.
"We just want that to be normalized and in the restroom the way toilet paper and soap and towels are in the restroom," she said.
Unlike similar coin-operated dispensers, the products in the library's dispensers are free and all one needs to do is press the button for whichever product they need.
"It has windows on the front, so you can see the product inside," Allen said. "All you have to do is push the button, and what you need comes out."
As the library has had the dispensers for about a month, Allen and Hough said they have noticed they are being regularly utilized, but not overutilized.
"We're encouraging people to use them as they need here at the library, but not to fill their personal stock up," Allen said.
"I think people appreciate that they're there," Hough said. "They're used, but not overused, which is what we wanted."
"I think it just makes sense for us to offer these to our patrons," Allen said. "You know, half the population has a period at some part of their life, a large part of their life, and they don't opt into that. It's natural. It's how our bodies are designed. So, it just makes sense that we would offer these products."