The Adult Coloring Club began as a way to provide a fun and conversational space for adult patrons at the Northeast Neighborhood Library. For the past year, this space has been an opportunity for adults to relax and be a kid again.
More than a year ago, I was looking for new programs to reach our adult audiences, so I reached out to my good friend, Google. Google, or at least my search for “Fun Adult Activities,” introduced me to the interesting world of adult coloring. I was skeptical and couldn’t imagine serious, overwhelmed and overworked adults sitting down with a box of crayons and scribbling in, and out, of the lines. Did they really have the time or patience for this?
But something about this was intriguing, and I continued to look for more information on the trend. I read article after article, scientific and cultural, outlining the perks of this new creative outlet. I found that coloring was not only in vogue, but it was also a great mental health benefit. So on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, I made The Adult Coloring Club happen at the Northeast Neighborhood Library.
I designed a signature Adult Coloring Club flier using one of our library’s flier templates. I advertise this flier each and every month by posting it in different locations within our branch. I also post the flier on my personal Instagram account from time to time. There have been a few occasions where I have seen our club advertised around the internet and on the site, DCist.com . This was done without my knowledge, but I am not upset at all. Word of mouth is a powerful tool.
To start, I purchased a jumbo box of crayons and colored pencils from Staples. Each box ran about $50 to $55. This may seem like a lot, but you are buying these materials in bulk, and it lasts forever. I have had the same boxes for more than a year. I buy cake and cookies from the local supermarket. I also purchase sparkling cider, a case of water, and plastic wineglasses and utensils, which you can pick up from a dollar store. Per club meeting, for food and drink, I spend about $30.
If I decide to raffle off coloring books, I purchase them from Marshalls. They have rich and relevant coloring books for cheap. These coloring books run about $6 each.
I must say: I am lucky to have such dedicated Friends of the Library backing my branch. They work extremely hard to make sure we are financially sponsored and supported for our programs.
Five patrons showed up to the first club meeting, including a grandmother who confidently pulled her “grandbaby’s crayons” from her purse. The next club meeting, 10 patrons showed up. The next club meeting after that, about 20 patrons showed up and brought friends.
So what’s the secret? Well, I supply finger snacks with sparkling cider served in plastic wine glasses. I have music ranging from Prince to Sergio Mendes playing in the background, all thanks to Pandora Radio. Sometimes I even raffle off coloring books, because who doesn’t love a free gift? But all in all, I have a “come in, grab some crayons, a plastic wine glass and enjoy” motto that sticks. And it has been sticking for almost one colorful year.
The Adult Coloring Club has become a place for people to call home. For some, the program has become a calming exercise, and for others, it has become a way to socialize every third Thursday of the month.
It caught on so well, a producer from CBS Sunday Morning reached out to profile one of our club meetings. That was definitely a highlight, although CBS has not aired the segment yet.
If there is anything I have learned, it is that adults are ready to live and let go, to slow down and take in the moments. They are ready to meet new people in real time. Adults are ready to have those carefree childhood feelings again because the worrying is not worth it. If crayons or colored pencils can help them do that, that’s even better.
My advice would be to simply have fun with this program. The idea behind it is to be calm and at ease. You should practice this state of mind while planning and organizing. This is also a really low-maintenance program. Don’t forget that. Print or copy some coloring pages, get some crayons or colored pencils, play some music, grab some snacks and invite people in. Everything else will work itself out.
When I first started, I thought I had to entertain the crowd every second on the second. But I realized people will come in and color on their own, or come in and meet a new friend. It’s beautiful. You supply the space, and the space will be filled.
About This Library
The Northeast Neighborhood Library is the fourth oldest DC Public Library building still in operation. It opened in March 1932 and was the first public library branch to be built in Washington D.C. entirely with public funds. The library began a $10 million renovation in October 2012, which included new elevators, furniture, flooring and meeting room spaces. The Georgian Revival style building has been modernized to provide state-of-the-art library services, while maintaining the building's historic character.