The St. Albert Public Library is now offering free period products in its washrooms.
On Jan. 12, the St. Albert Public Library launched the Period Project pilot program.
“Periods happen, and sometimes you need a product and if you're in a pinch, we can help you,” said Stephanie Foremsky, public services manager for St. Albert Public Library.
Foremsky, said the initiative was inspired by conversations on menstruation in general and more specifically by libraries in Grand Prairie and Lethbridge that have launched campaigns to provide access to period products.
The library determined there was a need for free products after consulting with non-profit organizations in the city.
If youth, who frequent the library are in a bind, there aren’t any places within walking distance of the library to purchase products.
The cost of living has also been considered.
“With inflation and the high use of the food bank, people might be choosing between food for their families or, products to help them through their period. So, (we) wanted to just help eliminate that choice,” she said.
Foremsky said the library reached out to the St. Albert Community Foundation to see if they would be interested in funding the project.
“They gave us a little bit of money and then the rest of the library funded themselves. We didn't get our whole ask, which would have covered the entire project for the year, but we
got half of it, “she said.
The cost of supplying menstrual products in library washrooms is estimated to be $2,500 for the year. The St. Albert Community Foundation gave the library a grant of $1,500.
“We think nothing of offering you know, free toilet paper, free soap, free paper towel in public washrooms. This is just another sanitary washroom product that if not available for free is something that more than half the population is having to bring themselves and devote funds to,” she said.
Citron installed the dispensers, which will carry both pads and tampons, in the washrooms and will replenish supplies every month.
The St. Albert Place location has dispensers in all the washrooms in the library, and Foremsky is anticipating patrons will question dispensers in the men’s washroom. She said in a perfect world their washrooms would be gender neutral.
“We chose to put dispensers in both washrooms…because people fall into either one of two categories or both: They menstruate or they care about somebody who menstruates, so that should cover people entering both washrooms.
“We didn't want to only put them in one washroom and then reduce accessibility for those who need it,” she said.
Foremsky said the library also consulted with Outloud an organization that supports 2SLGBTQIA+ children, youth and families.
“It can be difficult to access a product if you're going into a washroom where (period products are) not commonly available or you're presenting a certain way, but you're still having a period. So, they were people we consulted with as well,” she said.
Ultimately, Foremsky is hoping the pilot will lead to free period products being offered in all City of St. Albert facilities.
“Normalizing menstruation is important because it is another bodily regular occurrence…When we don't talk about it, we shame it and there's no reason to shame it.”