Adult Coloring Explosion

Jennifer Peterson /

Image courtesy Lea Latumahina on Flickr

In case you haven't noticed, the adult coloring phenomenon is taking library programming by storm! In addition to news coverage and library calendar postings, we've seen some great discussions about best practices for libraries on Facebook groups, including ALA Think Tank and Programming Librarian Interest Group (If you're not yet a member of these groups, what are you waiting for? Once a member, you can search the groups for 'coloring').

We've collected some of what's being shared in this primer on adult coloring for libraries, answering these basic questions:


Coloring has to be the easiest, most affordable, and least stressful library program out there. But for those of you looking for a reason to begin an adult coloring program at your library, or who need to justify your reasoning with leadership, we've seen a number of libraries see this as a way to support health literacy, pointing to research that indicates that coloring de-stresses and lessens anxiety in adults, and can be especially beneficial to people with brain damage or dementia. Here's some reporting on the health benefits:

Many libraries mention the ways in which coloring creates social connection, both as a way for the library to connect with the community, and for community members to connect with each other, overcoming isolation and loneliness. Other libraries point out that the events create opportunities for informal readers advisory and reference support, or to introduce people to the other programs and services the library offers.

Image courtesy Woods Hole Public Library on Facebook


Most libraries stipulate that their coloring programs are intended for adults, usually 16 or 18 and up, but some say for tweens, teens, and adults, and still others are providing all-ages programs, with coloring handouts appropriate for even the youngest of patrons. Some libraries have begun to take registration, with 'sellout' crowds showing up shortly after launching their programs. And others are using coloring with library staff, leaving coloring sheets and markers on the lunchroom table, or at a staff meeting, especially as a way to introduce the team to the concept.


Most libraries seem to be hosting their programs within the library, wherever there's a table or two, but others are setting up in other community spaces, like at the local coffee shop or pub, at outdoor events, and still others are providing coloring kits to check out, so coloring stations can be set up elsewhere in the community.


Libraries are hosting adult coloring programs weekly, monthly, as a series, or as a one-time event. Libraries are scheduling events over the lunch hour, in the afternoon, in the evening, or making coloring available at drop-in times.

For more passive programming, some libraries are setting up a display, perhaps near the public computers, with colored pencils and markers. One library is hosting a Coloring Contest for adults, with the coloring done at home, and a public viewing and awards ceremony at the library. And we learned of one library district who has purchased adult coloring books to put in circulation, encouraging people to color in them and then turn them back in. When the books are filled with color, the library will put them on display.


In terms of supplies, libraries are providing coloring books or coloring sheets, along with markers, color pencils, crayons. Some encourage people to bring their own favorite coloring tools, and others mention that they'll accept donated supplies. There are a multitude of adult color books available or coloring pages that can be downloaded for free. Library Journal covered some of the publishers that are feeding the coloring book trend. And there are a multitude of artists selling coloring books on Etsy, including Coloring Outside the Kitchen, a women's history coloring book created by a librarian! 

Image courtesy dangerismycat on Flickr

While we didn't see any libraries hosting coloring pages or links to free coloring resources on their websites, we thought this would be a good idea. Or perhaps enlist your group to create coloring designs that others can color, maybe even as a part of a fundraiser. Recently, a lifetime patron of the Toronto Public Library created a coloring book of all the branches and two bookmobiles, 102 sketches in all! (See September 16, 2015 article in

We've seen questions about whether or not the library should provide snacks. Some are providing snacks or light refreshments, others are inviting people to bring snacks to share, and we found one library who has asked their Friends group to volunteer to bring cookies to their Cookies and Coloring Events. And for those events held at the local bar, grown-up drinks can accompany the grown-up coloring!


So you can see the many different ways libraries are describing and marketing their coloring events, here are a few samples we found from libraries we follow on Facebook:

We've also seen some discussion about whether or not to provide music during the event. Some say it's nice to keep it quiet, with conversation creating a soundtrack, others are providing soothing music in the background, and we learned of another library who sets up the option for participants to bring their own music or DJ from a selection provided. And at one library, a live classical guitarist will be serenading the coloring. What a wonderful way to host local musicians at your library!

As you can see, there's no shortage of libraries AND inspiration when it comes to adult coloring programs. They are a low-cost and low-maintenance way to create community, encourage creativity, and allow for a safe and relaxing way for adults to socialize. We hope to hear from you if you have more to share on the topic, either here in the comments area or on our Facebook page.

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