Lynn Wheeler has always been thrilled to be surrounded by books. Her love for the written word led to a 45-year career in library services, including 14 years as Carroll County Public Library's executive director. In November, Wheeler plans to begin a new chapter with her husband, Jerry, when she retires and celebrates her 70th birthday.
"Lynn is one of the most energetic and visionary local leaders I know and she will be missed tremendously by our community," said Mike McMullin, Carroll County Chamber of Commerce president. "Her influence has been great in Carroll County and, even though she will no longer be at the helm of the library, I'm certain that many have been inspired by Lynn to be better versions of themselves!"
Wheeler, of Finksburg, was instrumental in the construction and opening of the Finksburg branch library; the renovation of Westminster branch, including the installation of the Mary Lou Dewey Sculpture Park; and the interior renovations to the North Carroll, Mount Airy, Eldersburg, and Taneytown branches.
Under Wheeler's leadership, CCPL also expanded hours including Sunday hours at all branches; expanded digital and physical collections of books, music, video, and other materials; offered passport services at North Carroll and Eldersburg branches; and created opportunities for the community to connect with innovative tech, including 3-D printers and scanners, laser engravers, virtual reality, and augmented reality.
"I've been blessed with a fantastic career," Wheeler said. "It's time for me to give someone else the fabulous opportunity I've had in Carroll. It's such a great community. One of the greatest treasures is how people work together to get stuff done."
During her tenure as executive director, Wheeler has partnered with multiple organizations, including Carroll County Public Schools, Carroll County Arts Council, McDaniel College, Carroll Community College, Chamber of Commerce, MAGIC, Carroll Tech Council, Carroll County Genealogical Society, Union Mills Homestead, Community Media Center, NAACP, CCRE, The Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County, HSP, and the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster.
Westminster Common Council president Dr. Robert Wack said Wheeler is "a great partner."
"She's going to be tough to replace," he said. "She has a unique outlook on her role in the community. She's relentlessly positive and open to new ideas and ways to collaborate. There are very few people who live that every day the way she does. She's always looking to make things better. She's full of positive energy. It's really refreshing and energizing."
"I've worked with great partners and a fabulous staff," Wheeler said. "I don't want to take credit for these things because they make it happen. It's a magnificent system and I'm very honored to be a part of it."
Carroll County Public Library Board member Joyce Muller said Wheeler "never takes credit for herself and always gives credit to her staff."
"That's a leadership model for all of us to exemplify," Muller said. "Lynn has brought our library services to a new standard. Lynn and her team have made the library a place that's no longer just about books. She encourages creativity and always invites feedback. She builds partnerships in the community. She sees that bringing us all together better serves the citizens of Carroll County."
Wheeler's leadership style is influenced by her mentor, Charles Robinson, a former Baltimore County library director.
"I get up and say 'Now what would Charles think about that?' His philosophy was 'Give the people what they want.' He was interested in making sure the library was meeting the public's interests," she explained.
With that in mind, Wheeler and her staff established a shared collection system in Carroll County. When the system buys books, they disperse them to different libraries. When the books are checked out, readers can return them to any of the system's libraries.
"We're always looking for a way to enhance services," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said she is always looking for ways to implement new services within the budget. While she said print is still one of the most comfortable technologies ever developed, the library system has to balance the demand for an array of formats.
"The library can provide a lot of activities and services for all ages," Wheeler said. "We do over 6,000 programs a year and offer more than 100,000 items in a variety of formats."
While Wheeler couldn't pin down one accomplishment of which she was most proud, she said she's most excited about the Battle of the Books reading competition for fourth- through eighth-grade students. More than 1,400 students are participating this year.
"Kids work in teams to see who knows the most about Black-Eyed Susan books," she said. "It's fostering a life skill and teaching them about teamwork."
Wheeler has "raised the level of library service in Carroll County, which was already at a nationally recognized level," said CCPL Communications Director Lisa Picker.
"It has been an utmost pleasure to work under her," Picker said. "Lynn is an exceptional leader. She's really personally committed to the library and Carroll County. It's a really unique thing to have a leader who can fill all of those functions — connecting with legislature, connecting with local government, and connecting with customers while meeting everyone with warmth and respect. She's meant a lot to me and to our organization. We will miss her greatly."
After November, Wheeler will continue as a key member of the fundraising committee supporting the upcoming Exploration Commons at 50 East makerspace, culinary center, and collaborative meeting space to be built in the lower level of the Westminster Branch.
A national search will be conducted to find the next executive director.