Finding a unique approach to a topic as popular as adult coloring is a challenge. There have been countless articles both in the popular press and library specific publications about this hot new trend. Coloring books aimed at adults feature more complex, artistic designs from repeating pattern mandalas to fantastical cityscapes. But how does a library actually pull off a successful adult coloring night? The following is a case study of one small library’s adult coloring program, including what worked and what didn’t. The Emerson Public Library (where I work), located in suburban Emerson, NJ and serving a population of 7,500, ran an Adult Coloring program every Tuesday evening in October 2015. Attendance was more than 20 patrons per night. For a small investment in supplies and refreshments, the library was able to engage a new user base.
The supply budget for adult coloring events is easily scalable. Colored pencils and markers represent the largest outlay for materials. A wide array of colors and high quality tools are important to engage adults. We purchased a total of two hundred and twenty five pencils in fifty different colors, and one hundred colored pencils in fifty different colors. All of these supplies can then be reused for children’s programs when the adult coloring craze dies down.
At $5 to $12 each, coloring books can also quickly eat up the program’s budget, but there are ways to obtain these materials inexpensively. Free coloring pages are available online, and coloring books are sometimes also available for free from Blogging for Books, a division of Random House that offers bloggers and librarians free books in exchange for short reviews. We purchased ten coloring books, expecting a dozen attendees per night, but, luckily, we discovered that patrons preferred to use photocopied pages from the books rather than the books themselves because the books did not lie flat. Thus, we were able to reuse our initial supply of books many times.
Marketing for the program relied on word of mouth and staff enthusiasm to hand sell the concept. Posts on our Facebook page, a mention in our monthly e-newsletter, and a free posting on the local newspaper’s online events calendar was the only marketing done outside the library. Inside the library, a large, colorful poster at the circulation desk drove patron engagement. Frequent conversations with staff about the program, including sharing news articles about the adult coloring trend, got staff excited to tell patrons about the program. The total marketing budget was $15 for the custom poster.
Adult coloring is an easy, low cost programming option for public libraries. The national attention means programs already have great name recognition and generate excitement. Plus, supplies can be inexpensive and programs require little investment of staff time because there is no learning curve for participants to get involved. If you’re looking for an on-trend bit of programming that can bring in new patrons, it might be time to try an adult coloring night at your library.
Marcotte, Alison. “Coloring Book Clubs Cross the Line into Libraries.” American Libraries, August 24, 2015.
Beck, Julie. “The Zen of Adult Coloring Books.” The Atlantic, November 4, 2015.