Partnership With Library Helps Gardening Lecture Series Soar

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three women standing outside the door to the Matthews library

Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers Sandy Fussell and Hallie Walker worked with Kristi Atkins, Adult Services Librarian at the Matthews Library to organize the lecture series. Not pictured (Margaret Genkins).

Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Mecklenburg County have been providing programs on a wide range of gardening topics for more than a decade. Usually, these programs are a one-time event hosted by a civic group, neighborhood association, or garden club. But in 2019, the Master Gardener℠ volunteers decided to try something different – a series of lectures held in the same location. 

This idea resulted in the establishment of the Gardening Lecture Series which has provided the community with practical, research-based gardening instruction as well as raised awareness of the Extension Master Gardener program. The presentations featured sustainable gardening topics such as pruning of woody ornamentals, managing invasive exotic plants, and plant suggestions to attract birds and bees. 

Matthews library flyer

A series of lectures attracted more attendees than stand-alone programs.

When looking for a suitable location to host the lecture series, Master Gardener volunteers considered the day of the week, the time of day, and the location’s access to easy parking. Enthusiasm from Kristi Atkins, Adult Services Librarian for the Matthews Branch of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, sealed the deal. The library offered to host the series and coordinate publicity and registration, a significant time-saver for the Master Gardener volunteers. Hosting the series at the library also saved the Master Gardener volunteers from time-consuming room set-up and break-down and gave them access to the library’s audiovisual equipment. As an added benefit, Master Gardener volunteers were able to guide participants to the library resources available on the subjects covered. 

In order to publicize the series, the library posted announcements on its website and hung flyers at the branch.

flyer advertising a lecture

Flyers posted at the library helped to publicize the series.

Meanwhile, Master Gardener volunteers promoted the lectures in their new monthly newsletter (called Garden Zone) and on their website, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.

logo with shovel icon

Extension Master Gardener Volunteers of Mecklenburg County’s monthly newsletter, The Garden Zone, helped spread the word about the lecture series.

The partnership with the library ultimately widened the reach of the publicity and the series attracted many more participants than individual lectures had in the past. The year before starting the library series Master Gardener volunteers hosted two lectures, attended by 27 people. In 2019, the number of lectures offered increased to eight and attendance soared to 176 people. Master Gardener volunteers also observed that participants attended more than one lecture and by the series’ conclusion, were calling for more!

In fact, other library branches in the Charlotte Mecklenburg system have requested similar speaker series to be set up at their locations in the future. The series served as an educational experience for the attendees as well as the Master Gardener volunteers who prepared and delivered the lectures. It also provided a training opportunity for newer Master Gardener volunteers who may be considering becoming a presenter. 

Banner - Search for Excellence - red

To recognize this fantastic work, the Extension Master Gardener℠ program in Mecklenburg County has been awarded NC State Extension’s 2020 Search for Excellence Award in the workshop or presentation category. This award recognizes outstanding Extension Master Gardener volunteer educational, group projects that result in significant learning. We congratulate Master Gardener volunteers Sandy Fussell, Margaret Genkins, and Hallie Walker, for their efforts to share science-based gardening information and promote sustainable gardening practices in their community. 

To learn more about the Extension Master Gardener program in Mecklenburg County, contact Steven Capobianco, N.C. Cooperative Extension Horticulture Agent, 980-202-1449.

ABOUT the North Carolina Extension Master Gardener Program

NC State Extension Master Gardener volunteers connect people to horticulture through science-based education and outreach that empowers North Carolinians to cultivate healthy plants, landscapes, ecosystems, and communities. To learn more about the NC State Extension Master Gardener program in your community, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension Center.