June 16, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Johnson County libraries to provide feminine hygiene products in men’s restrooms

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Yes, the headline is correct; Johnson County libraries will soon provide tampons and other feminine hygiene products in the men’s restrooms. Male visitors to the various Johnson County Library branches who find themselves in need will soon have no problem finding feminine hygiene products in the men’s restroom.

At the August 10 Johnson County Library Board meeting, the board voted to allow the libraries to spend $375 in library operating funds in partnership with non-profit “Strawberry Week” to provide containers for “period” products in “all public restrooms” across its 14 locations.

The briefing sheet provided to commissioners from Deputy County Librarian Kinsley Riggs, stated the $375 would actually be a savings — despite the fact that the “Johnson County, KS Facilities Department does not currently provide period products to any Johnson County, KS government buildings.”

According to the briefing sheet, “The annual cost of products Strawberry Week agrees to supply would save the Library approximately $3,171.16 on 10,000 pads and 6,000 tampons if the Library were to purchase supplies directly from County approved vendors. Staff’s initial proposal also considered partnership with another distribution organization, Aunt Flow, which would have cost the Library $4,000 annually for the same amount of product. An advantage of partnering with Strawberry Week is their willingness to increase our product quantities if it is found we need more in certain library locations. This partnership offers many advantages, including reinforcing a proactive and impactful approach to providing more seamless customer service, fostering a welcoming environment, safeguarding privacy and confidentiality by making products available without a patron needing to ask, and ensuring prolonged, comfortable access to information and library resources in our spaces.”

The library claimed providing feminine hygiene products would address “period poverty” and “serve to empower library patrons and increase access to our buildings by supplying often-needed products.”

An email seeking further information from library staff and obtained by the Sentinel sought to clarify why these products would be in men’s restrooms.

County Librarian Patricia Sullentrop responded “We don’t want staff to assume why or why not someone needs access to period products, and we acknowledge that there are fathers, grandfathers, husbands, and more who may need confidential and quick access in order to enable a child, partner, or other person in their care to remain in the library.”

The Sentinel reached out to Sullentrop to ask why it was necessary to spend library funds on this and why it was important to put the products in mens’ rooms and why a “child, partner, or other person in their care,” couldn’t simply get them themselves from the ladies’ room.

JCPL External Communications Manager Elissa Andre responded with essentially the same statement as had been provided in the emails obtained by the Sentinel.

Editor’s note: Due to a reporter’s error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated the vote was taken at a Johnson County Commission meeting rather than at the Johnson County Library Board Meeting. The Sentinel regrets the error.

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