Salt Lake County Library offers free period products at all branches

A new dispenser in the Salt Lake County Library Granite Branch offers patrons free period products. All of the library's branches will have the products, thanks to a grant.

A new dispenser in the Salt Lake County Library Granite Branch offers patrons free period products. All of the library's branches will have the products, thanks to a grant. (Rebecca Baker)


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SALT LAKE CITY — When you walk into a public restroom, it's reasonable to expect some things — toilet paper, clean water, somewhere you can dry your hands.

"Part of that normative restroom experience should also be having period products," said Rebecca Baker, assistant manager at the Salt Lake County Library's Granite Branch.

All 18 branches of the county library system now provide free tampons and pads in women's and unisex restrooms, and Baker says this change makes the difference between patrons staying to utilize library services or going home.

"Working in libraries, we see a lot of how inequities affect our patrons and how libraries can bridge the gap," she said.

Around 26% of the global population menstruates. In Utah, 1 in 9 women and girls between the ages of 12 and 44 live below the federal poverty line, making period products a potential strain on family budgets.

Baker got excited about providing free period products when she read about HB162, a 2022 Utah law that required public and charter schools to provide free period products to students.

Utah government buildings and the Salt Lake airport were also starting to offer free period products.

Baker knew there was a need for hygiene products in libraries, too. Prior to the project, library branches didn't even have paid product dispensers. Several branches had mentioned patrons asking for pads at the reference desk — and there were probably countless more who needed them but didn't ask.

"There's still embarrassment around asking for hygiene items," Harris said. "There's no reason to be embarrassed."

These products aren't just for school-aged girls menstruating for the first time — they also benefit people dealing with postpartum leaks, incontinence or menopause.

Baker worked with library administration to apply for a grant to provide free period products. Through the Library Services and Technology Act, the Institute of Museum of Library Services provided $20,300, which was administered by the Utah State Library Division.

Bottom line: No Utah taxpayer dollars were used for the project.

It was enough cash to install all of the period product dispensers and keep them stocked for at least a year, maybe two.

Since product dispensers were installed in the Granite Branch two weeks ago, Baker has restocked 160 pads and 70 tampons.

"It's a silent need," she said. Occasionally, a patron will come up to the reference desk and thank a librarian for the free service, but for the most part, patrons just gratefully — and quietly — take what they need.

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Emma Everett Johnson covers Utah as a general news reporter. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University.

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