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DC Public Library offers teens free menstrual products

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is offering free 'Flow Swag Bags' to teens on the teen floor.

WASHINGTON — Editor's Note: The video above was published on June 14, 2022.

Menstrual products are running low in some areas of the U.S. and libraries in the District are offering them for free to teens.

‘Flow Swag Bags’ are available on the teen floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Northwest, D.C. Although menstrual products are being offered to teenagers on the teen floor of the library, officials say that no one will be denied menstrual products if they ask for some.

The initiation of the 'Flow Swag Bag' stemmed from Care Kits, an ongoing initiative that libraries across D.C. have adopted to provide necessities to people experiencing homelessness and anyone in need.

DC Public Library officials add that people experiencing homelessness frequent the library often in search of resources including menstrual products.

“They need to have these things without shame,” said Tawanda Johnson, Teen Services Librarian for a DC Public Library.

Johnson says being observant is key to making sure young people have what they need because they aren’t as likely to ask for assistance because of the stigma surrounding the discussion of menstrual cycles.

Care Kits include hats, gloves, socks and more, according to DC Library officials. Flow Swag Bags include tampons, pads, panty liners, underwear, wipes, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

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Menstrual products are available throughout the library and in some restrooms. Future plans for menstrual product availability include implementing a vending machine in restrooms where people can conveniently take the products they need. However, DC Public Library officials say that is an ongoing project they hope will come to fruition within the next year.

The MLK Library is not the only library that offers menstrual products. Jean Badalamenti, Manager for Health and Human Services for a DC Public Library says that different locations advertise the products differently to fit the need of their location.

“This is a real issue. It’s a public health issue and it’s something that should be talked about,” said Badalamenti.

The DC Public Library System funds this initiative through the DC Public Library Foundation and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. When asked if DC Public Library accepts donations, they responded by urging people to donate to local organizations that need more resources.

“These are expensive products and a lot of people need them… We are a barrier-free institution. If someone asks for it and the need is there, we are happy to offer it,” said Badalamenti while talking about the many roles libraries play in people’s lives.

RELATED: Menstrual products in limited supply in some stores

Johnson says the response from DC Public Library's viral social media post that advertised that they were offering menstrual products has been “grateful.”

“The library does a lot of things. It’s a cultural institution and I always say it’s a public health and social service institution as well,” said Badalamenti.

“When people think about the library, I don’t want them to only think about books,” Johnson said. She further explains how people should think of the library as a place to find resources for employment, housing, mental health services and other life necessities.

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