Let ’em Color

My library has had a beautiful little kids coloring table since long before I came. It’s constantly stocked with a varied pile of coloring sheets and a large selection of crayons (including some Lego brick, Darth Vader and stormtrooper shaped ones). It’s also constantly used. When I started, we had a group of high schoolers that came in with very idle hands and minds. One of the things I noticed was when they got bored, they were often go on the computer and print coloring sheets. Plus, last winter was when the adult coloring phase was really starting to hit its stride. I donated all of my old colored pencils (which was a lot) to the cause and set up a coloring station at a high top table in the middle of our Young Adult section.

Initially I went for more complicated things. Mandelas and other pictures labeled online as ‘adult’ or ‘teen’ coloring sheets – a lot of landscapes and realistic looking pictures. I also found a bunch of harder (some too hard!) mazes and dot to dots, which were often started but rarely finished. At first, they went like hotcakes but then I noticed they were being used much more slowly. So I started peeking in on the high schoolers who were printing out their own and realized they were also borrowing pictures from the kids’ table. They wanted pop culture things and things that reminded them of their childhood. So I started printing out Star Wars and My Little Pony and Doctor Who and suddenly they started to fly again and I was updating my stack ever 2 days instead of once a week.

When I stopped doing my daily sudoku puzzle – my personal interest had finally waned – I started putting stacks of those out, which, since the pile ran up, have been requested a couple of times.

Additionally, my boss got a hold of one of Barnes & Nobles’ 500 Drawing Prompts books, which I put out with a small sign taped to the front saying to keep it PG-13 and polite or else their drawing would be erased or torn out. Although I’ve had to erase maybe 3 things, about 400 of the prompts have been filled out in the past year. Once summer comes, I’ve gotten one of those ‘complete the picture’ books from Barnes & Noble which I’ll be putting out as fresh paper for them, as the filling of the prompts has definitely slowed the fuller it has become.

The Timberland Regional Library in Washington State also posted an amazing idea on their Tumblr, which I will be respectfully borrowing come summer as well. They took a table – I’ll use my round high top – and covered with a whole page of drawing paper, decorated with brilliant designs (they look homemade). They included in the design, the rules: Share and respect others’ coloring, Don’t color over parts already colored, and Have fun!

Overall, coloring is an easy passive program that can use any bit of space, big or small. Teens will color with any kind of crayon, colored pencil or marker so the cost there is not too steep. Plus, the cost of printing the pages. I find them off free sites online, but I know librarians have also taken pages out of coloring books before to use from donations. Also, I found that other things – the sudokus, mazes and dot to dots – can find the right audience too and appeal to the kids who might not want to color but want to do something easy with their hands while they are at the library.

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