The library is partnering with the Oak Park Township to offer free personal hygiene supplies for youth at the library. Kids and their families can help themselves to soap, shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes and toothpaste, floss, deodorant, lotion, and menstrual products. The supplies are located inside a small latched cabinet in the wheelchair-accessible bathroom in the Main Library Children’s Services area.
“Deodorant, lotion, and toothbrushes have been especially popular,” says Elementary School Services Librarian Genevieve Grove, whose team is restocking some items almost every day.
The free toiletries are being supplied by Oak Park Township’s Youth and Family Services, thanks to community donations.
“We have had a great community response when we have put out calls for donations,” says Oak Park Township Director of Youth and Family Services Megan Traficano. “We are so fortunate to live in a community that is willing to provide these supplies to youth.”
‘We want to make sure hygiene supplies are easily accessible’
Traficano says the topic of hygiene supplies has come up often in groups and individual sessions between Township staff and youth in the community. “This can be a difficult subject to speak about and we want to make sure that hygiene supplies are easily accessible,” she adds.
The Township’s Youth and Family Services team already runs a Hygiene Closet at the Township offices, 105 S. Oak Park Ave., where youth can come and get basic personal care and hygiene supplies for free. To spread the word and make supplies more accessible, the Township started looking into stocking more locations last spring.
“We thought of the Oak Park Public Library as a natural partner for us, as so many youth are involved in library activities after school, on the weekends, and during breaks,” Traficano said, adding that Township and library staff already collaborate in different ways to meet the needs of youth and families in the community.
‘We are here for all youth’
“The social services provided by the Township are priceless,” says the library’s Genevieve Grove, who also serves on the Township’s Youth and Family Services Committee. “But I’d say for most people, it’s the least understood of our taxing bodies.”
Traficano says there can be a negative perception at times in the community, “that if a youth is working with the Township it could mean they are in trouble or worse, which is not true at all,” she says.
“We are here for all youth, no matter what the need or issue is,” Traficano says, adding that the Youth and Family Services Department has a very diverse staff with many different areas of expertise and ranges of experience.
“The community pays property taxes so we can provide these services, we are here to help and assist, and anybody at any stage of life may need a little help sometimes,” she says. “That is okay and encouraged. That is what we are here for.”
More hygiene products available at the library
The Middle and High School Services team also offers free toiletries for students on the Main Library’s second floor. Manager Latonia Jackson says her team wants to have necessities available to those in need, and that students coming to the library straight from school sometimes need those essentials.
Additionally, the library provides free menstrual products via coinless dispensers in all single-occupancy and women’s restrooms in all library buildings.