A table full of coloring pages and Crayola pencils wouldn’t normally look out of place in a room full of Milton Public Library patrons. But on the evening of March 9, there are no children here.
For 90 minutes every month, members of Milton’s adult coloring club can reconnect with their inner child through a trendy activity now touted as an effective relaxation method.
Coloring books marketed specifically to adults have soared in popularity over the last year, cropping up at craft and bookstores and seemingly every corner of the Internet.
Last year, The New York Times reported a 96-page coloring book called “Secret Garden” by Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford sold more than 1.4 million copies in 22 languages since 2013, topping Amazon’s bestseller list last March.
Intricate floral patterns and mandala designs abound, and there’s no shortage of variety: Offerings range from colorable cats and curse words to “Buff Bernie,” featuring more than 20 pages of the Vermont senator and presidential hopeful in bodybuilding poses.
Milton Public Library staff learned other libraries were capitalizing on the trend – albeit with tamer designs – and hosting coloring nights, and adult programming coordinator MaryBeth Peterson approached director Meghan Bellavance about starting an event in Milton.
Peterson recalled coloring with her sons – now 17 and 20 – as children.
“I would be the one left,” she said. “They’d go off playing, and I’d still be coloring.”
Peterson asked for a coloring book this Christmas when her kids weren’t sure what to buy her.
Almost 15 people showed up to the first coloring night in December, a pleasant surprise for Bellavance who worried the trend might fall flat in Milton.
“Are people here going to be like, ‘That’s silly or juvenile?’ How’s it going to play?” she wondered.
She quickly discovered people were already coloring privately, to unwind before bed, for instance.
“It’s one of those things where even if we’re not talking to each other, we’re all doing this,” she said.
Bellavance suggested the nostalgic activity is attractive to those who want to unplug from ever-pervasive technology. Its low-cost, low-maintenance nature is also a draw to understaffed and overwhelmed librarians.
“It’s an easy thing that I can do that gets people in the door, and they’re responding to it,” Bellavance said.
That was clear on a recent Wednesday night, when a group of women unloaded their supplies and put pencil to paper.
Miltonian Lena Fishman came equipped with several books, her own sharpener and a menagerie of colored pencils in a traveling case.
“It’s fun going around looking at other people at the end of the night to see what they’ve done,” she said. “And we like to check out each other’s supplies.”
Fishman heard about the trend from friends and relatives on Facebook, but her coloring club tablemate Jane Phillips said she “didn’t have a clue” about its popularity until recently.
Fishman ordered her first coloring book from a catalogue, picked up another at Michael’s and now has “a stack like this,” she said, motioning several feet off the floor.
“It’s just so relaxing,” she said. “You just get so involved in the colors, you just forget about everything else that’s going on in your life.”
Strangers until they connected through coloring, Fishman and Phillips have built a friendship – something Bellavance is thrilled to witness.
“One of the roles a library can play is reducing social isolation,” Bellavance said. “These types of programs are a way for people to get out of their house and connect with other people.”
One such newcomer arrived on Wednesday night and sat at an empty table.
“Ma’am, did you want to come and sit with us?” Fishman called to her.
“There’s plenty of room,” Phillips added.
“Sure,” the woman said, gathering her supplies. “I’ll come over.”
Milton Public Library’s adult coloring club meets from 6:30 – 8 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month and is free with no sign-up required. Refreshments and supplies are provided, but participants are welcome to bring their own.
Adult coloring in the area
- Milton Public Library: Wednesday, April 13, 6:30 – 8 p.m.
- Essex Senior Center: Monday, March 28, 10:30 a.m. – noon
- Dorothy Alling Memorial Library, Williston: Saturday, March 26, 11 a.m. – 12:20 p.m.