The library sustains, shares, and respects community resources, including the natural environment. Environmental initiatives include our participation in IGOV, the Main Library Green Roof, its two honeybee colonies, and more green features integrated throughout the award-winning building. The library also was a partner in the Year of the Butterfly in 2021.

Library volunteer Debbie Becker inspects honeybee hives on the Main Library Green Roof. Watch the BeeCam Live Stream (spring through fall) »

Focusing on sustainability

Throughout 2022 IGOV—an intergovernmental body representing each of Oak Park’s elected government boards—focused its collaborative efforts on sustainability through an article series published in the Wednesday Journal. Topics included:

Honeybee hives at home on Main Library 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.

The Green Roof is not accessible to the public, but since April 2019 it has been home to two honeybee hives. The hives were installed as part of our ongoing focus to sustain the natural environment and to offer new opportunities to learn. Local beekeeping expert and library volunteer Debbie Becker helped us get the hives up and buzzing, and she regularly visits to help maintain them. With these hives, the library joins a small community of beekeepers in Oak Park, including the Village of Oak Park and the Park District of Oak Park.

Read more about the Main Library beehives »

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

More environmentally friendly features of the Main Library

Recycled materials. The 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. And bird cutouts placed on the windows 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, 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.

Energy-saving light bulbs. We have steadily reduced energy usage by installing LED lightbulbs at Main and Maze (the Dole Center is owned and maintained by the Park District of Oak Park). Maze lighting is now 100% LED. At Main, the parking garage, lobby, elevators, the third floor “artichoke lights” (pictured below), and all staff areas now have LED lightbulbs.

  • In September 2022, the environmental impact we’ve had through these projects was equivalent to planting around 2,000 trees, avoiding 164,927 kWh in electricity usage. That’s about 117 metric tons of CO2 saved from the atmosphere. 
  • Interested in discovering more about the greenhouse gas equivalency? Use the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas calculator that helps you translate abstract measurements into concrete terms that are easy to understand.

Main Library Third Floor

Award-winning architecture

At 104,000 square feet, the Main Library is a three-story building with a partial fourth floor for building systems. Underneath the building is a parking garage containing 79 parking spaces, including four accessible spaces. Throughout the building, and at both branch libraries, there are more than 100 direct quotations. Chosen from world literature with a strong representation of Oak Park authors authors, the quotes are used as a unifying design feature among the three physical spaces.

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.

Designed by the firm of Nagle Hartray Architecture, 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.”

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