Even in accepting an award for her philanthropy, Lynn Wheeler has a long list of others she thanks.
The retiring Carroll County Public Library executive director says she is honored to receive the nonprofit Philanthropist of the Year award on behalf of the library system, but that she couldn’t have done it without the entire community behind her.
“Really, the award belongs to all of us,” Wheeler said last week, “and I'm so thankful for that. I truly am, and I'm thankful to [the Community Foundation] and the folks that I think recognized the role the library plays in welcoming all members of the community — and that makes me very proud.”
On Oct. 17, Wheeler will be honored in the nonprofit category at the Community Foundation of Carroll County's 13th annual Philanthropists of the Year awards. Youth (Jordan Costley), individual (Harold Robertson), legacy (Howard Koontz) and business (Integral Components) award winners will also be recognized at the event.
During her 14 years as director of Carroll County’s libraries, Wheeler has been a major contributor to the Mary Lou Dewey Sculpture Park and the Westminster branch library’s new makerspace in progress, Exploration Commons at 50 East.
She has also contributed for many years to the United Way of Central Maryland at the Leaders United/ Women’s Giving Circle level and underwritten the library’s team at the Literacy Council Spelling Bee and the Citizens for Racial Equality Annual Conference Breakfast.
Wheeler has also contributed as a longstanding member of the Arts Council at the sponsor level membership, to the Special Olympics Polar Bear Plunge and the MS Walk. She has annually attended numerous fundraising events in Carroll County and beyond in addition to holding memberships with the Carroll County Chapter of the NAACP, Historical Society of Carroll County and Genealogical Society of Carroll County.
But aside from her personal contributions, she has also initiated new programs at CCPL — like the annual Battle of the Books and the Friends of Carroll County Public Library — and kept Carroll’s library branches at the highest or second-highest circulation per capita in the state of Maryland during her tenure.
“She really has been kind of what’s perpetuated growth in our library system,” said Angie Knight, children services supervisor at the Eldersburg branch library and Battle of the Books facilitator.
“I strongly believe it,” she said. “She’s willing to make changes, and she sees a library as a community space — and what’s really transformed the library from just being a place where there’s books to a place where people gather and much more.”
CCPL Online Services & Emerging Technologies Supervisor Jen Bishop said her work on makerspaces, including Exploration Point at the Eldersburg branch and the coming Exploration Commons at 50 East at the Westminster branch, has also played a role in transforming the library system.
“Through Lynn’s efforts, CCPL has become an integral part of the technology ecosystem in Carroll County,” said Bishop. “Lynn actively supports piloting and launching new technology offerings, allowing CCPL to offer everyone in our community access and an introduction to various technologies.
CCPL's Lynn Wheeler was instrumental in the construction and opening of the Finksburg Branch Library; the renovation of Westminster Branch; and the interior renovations to the North Carroll, Mount Airy, Eldersburg, and Taneytown branches. She plans to retire in November.
“Her enthusiasm and willingness to explore the unknown have allowed CCPL to be an early adopter in connecting our customers to new technology experiences, from offering a 3-D printing service at all branches to introducing virtual and augmented reality,” she said.
The library system’s Board of Trustees President Kathleen Campanella agrees.
“And we hope to continue her legacy and have an even greater impact on the community with the Exploration Commons at 50 East,” she said, “and that project in the lower level of the Westminster branch is something that Lynn and others have been working very hard on and look forward to opening in 2020.”
Wheeler was nominated for the award by Bernie Jones, a member of the Community Foundation board, who said that he doesn’t want her to end up as one of those people who are only appreciated when they are gone.
“When I realized she's been executive director for 14 years, and when you consider all of her accomplishments and how the library system for Carroll County has grown — it’s just awesome,” said Jones last week.
“And I said, ‘You know, I'd never seen her name come up for this,’ and [that this] would be a way of showing my personal appreciation for what she’s done for the libraries, Carroll County, the system, and probably a lot of other people,” he said. “It’s just a token of appreciation, and a gift of gratitude I think she most recently deserves.”