About the Main Library

Built in 2003, the Main Library is the culmination of design goals to create an important civic building that adds to the strong architectural heritage of Oak Park, reflects the diversity of the community, and minimizes the impact on the natural environment through the use of sustainable building materials and systems.

Green roof of the Main Library
Thank you for this arial photo of the Main Library Green Roof, Bruce Unruh of Hydrotech!

Award-winning architecture

The 104,000-square-foot Main Library building has three stories, a partial fourth floor for building systems, and a Green Roof. Underneath the building is a parking garage containing 79 parking spaces, including four accessible spaces.

Designed by Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects, in collaboration with interior design firm Eva Maddox Branded Environments, it was awarded the Chicago Building Congress Merit Award for Best New Construction – Suburbs in 2004, for its “distinctive design, outstanding construction and a positive impact on the surrounding community.”

Environmentally friendly features

Recycled materials. The Main Library building’s east facade is covered in shingles manufactured from 75 percent recycled copper. And most of the building’s interior flooring is made from recycled rubber tires, which is both durable and easy to maintain.

Windows that regulate temperature and help protect migrating birds. Ceramic fritted glass in the large east-facing windows overlooking Scoville Park provide shading against the summer sun and reduce heat gain. To prevent birds flying into the windows during spring and fall migrations, staff lower the window shades overnight and until mid-morning. Bird cutouts placed on the windows are an extra layer to discourage migrating birds from flying into the clear glass.

Energy-saving light bulbs. We have steadily reduced energy usage by installing LED lightbulbs in the parking garage, lobby, elevators, staff areas, and in the “artichoke lights” (pictured below) that hang from the ceiling on the Main Library third floor. Overnight, we keep only about 20% of the building’s lights on—just enough so that our cleaning crew can work to make your experience the best it can be.

Main Library Third Floor

Energy benchmarking. The library participates in the Village of Oak Park’s Energy and Water Benchmarking Program. Our buildings’ electric, water, and gas usage are measured and compared against facilities of similar size and use across the country. Results will provide an overall report of usage, and can be used to determine if any efficiency improvements can be made.

Heating and cooling upgrades. Our library’s Facilities team is working with our mechanical contractor, as well as a new controls engineer, to address a number of HVAC and automation control issues. The goal of this long-term project is to improve the building’s climate control, modernize existing equipment, and better monitor and control the energy usage involved with heating and cooling the building. Plans include replacing a failed, 20-year-old, R-22 chiller with a more advanced, efficient, and environmentally friendly chiller. This will reduce energy consumption, as well as retire a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) unit from duty.

Electric vehicle charging. Prioritizing sustainability, the library promotes and encourages the use of electric vehicles. In January 2024, the library added charging stations in the Main Library garage to give public access to electric energy to recharge plug-in electric vehicles.

Green Roof. The 12,500-square-foot Main Library Green Roof diverts rainwater runoff from area sewer systems, improves the energy performance of the building, and contributes to better air quality in the neighborhood. It holds a thin layer of soil and native Illinois plants selected by Oak Park landscape architect Carol JH Yetkin, including phlox and sedum, that require minimal upkeep. Due to safety constraints, the roof is not accessible to the public.

More building history

The Main Library, as we know it today, is the third library building to stand at 834 Lake St. The first library in Oak Park was housed in The Scoville Institute, a private subscription library until 1903, when Oak Park citizens elected their first Board of Library Trustees to support a public library.