Libraries show that coloring isn't just for kids anymore

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by Jeff Malachowski, courtesy of The Milford Daily News

Putting the finishing touches on a brightly colored landscape in a coloring book she received as a Christmas gift, Karen Leese proudly displayed her finished product to compliments from her friends at Bacon Free Library’s (MA) adult coloring group.  “It’s beautiful,” Amy Steinmetz remarked before picking up a green colored pencil, continuing to fill blank space on her page.

Before attending the weekly adult coloring group at Natick's Bacon Free Library, Steinmetz, a local artist, did not know Leese, a trustee of the library, or any other members of the club. Over the past several months, Steinmetz, Leese, Library Director Meena Jain and others have relaxed, chatted, bonded and created friendships over colored pencils and coloring books.

“You get to know people in the community and befriend them,” said Leese. “It’s really sweet.”

Though initially skeptical of the benefits of an adult coloring group, Jain said the group has connected residents from across the community for an hour of relaxation, fun and conversation.  “There are so many benefits,” said Jain. “It’s an hour to unplug. I’ve met so many great people.”

The Bacon Free Library’s adult coloring group is just one of a handful that have sprung up across the region and country in recent months. Offered at the public libraries in Hudson, Marlborough, Bellingham, Holliston, Hopkinton, Northborough and Westborough, adult coloring has become a popular way for adults to meet, relax after a busy day of work and, of course, color.  “It’s a nice way to get out of the house and do something creative," said Nicole Kramer, reference librarian at the Hudson Public Library.

Most programs are drop-in sessions and are open to older teens and adults. Libraries provide coloring books, sheets of paper and pencils. 

Woman holding coloring book pageThe idea to offer an adult coloring night at the Northborough Free Library came about when Melissa Stroscio, the adult services librarian, noticed coloring books were the number one best sellers on Amazon and discovered the growing trend of adult coloring clubs across the country.  “That startled us,” said Stroscio.

Since creating a group in December, Stroscio said upwards of a dozen adults regularly attend and more have been trickling in each month. About 25 people attended one workshop earlier this year.  “It’s definitely picking up,” said Stroscio. “People really love it.”

The Holliston Public Library's club has also taken off, as the group has steadily grown since it was created about six months ago, said Leslie McDonnell, the library director.

"It doesn't look like it's slowing down," said McDonnell. "It's really a lot of fun. It's a time out, a night out."

Though attendance at the Marlborough Public Library’s adult coloring group has been slightly less than Holliston's or Northborough’s, the enthusiasm and welcoming nature of the colorers is no different. The library offers coffee and plays relaxing music to create a soothing atmosphere.  “I come to socialize, meet new people and have some laughs,” Betsy Landers, who has attended several sessions, said in between coloring strokes. “The people who come here are social. It is quite enjoyable.”

Sitting across the table, Kathy Patterson described coloring as a relaxing, low-stress hobby.  “There’s no pressure at all,” she said. “It’s fun to do a small limited project with no commitment.”

Woman coloringHeather Backman, Hopkinton’s adult services librarian, said many visitors to her program have provided similar feedback, saying coloring is a meditative activity.  “This program gives people a space in their busy lives to slow down and enjoy the moment,” she said. “Arts and crafts also bring greater richness and opportunities for self-expression to our lives.”

Backman said it has been difficult to keep the group dedicated to just adults.  "We don't have much space, so the coloring happens in our main area and at both of our events we've had kids passing by who wanted to color, too," said Backman. "Although we aim for adults, I don't mind a child joining us to quietly color. They can get their parents involved, too, or take a coloring page for later."

With coloring a popular activity for children and adults, the Bacon Free Library has created a family coloring group that has become quite popular. Jain said participating in an activity like coloring makes it easier for older kids to talk with their parents and adults.  "You don't have to make eye contact," she said. "That makes it a little easier to talk."

Though Franklin does not have a group, adult coloring is sometimes offered on Saturdays as a special coffee and craft program, said Felicia Oti, director of the Franklin Public Library.  Medway also doesn't have a program, but provides adult coloring books and colored pencils for patrons, said Margaret Perkins, director of the Medway Public Library.

The benefit of adult coloring programs is two-fold, as attendees are exposed to other programs and events libraries have to offer.  “We’ve had a few people we’ve never seen before,” said Cecily Christensen, Bellingham Public Library’s reference librarian. “It does help promote the libraries.”

Some of the appeal of coloring for adults is that it requires no artistic talent or ability, said Leslie McDonnell, director of the Holliston Public Library.  “Anybody can color,” she said.