The library sustains, shares, and respects community resources, including the natural environment. Environmental work includes public programs (supported by a dedicated staff member), Board of Library Trustees‘ participation in IGOV and PlanIt Green; the Main Library Green Roof and its two honeybee colonies, as well as more green features integrated throughout library spaces. Always looking for ways to work with community, the library proudly supported the Year of the Butterfly in 2021.

Library volunteer Debbie Becker inspects honeybee hives on the Main Library Green Roof.

Hosting honeybee hives on the 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.

Due to safety constraints, the roof is not accessible to the public. Since April 2019 however, 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. As do several trained library staff members. 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.

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

Environmentally friendly features

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.

Main Library Third Floor

Working with local government

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:

Award-winning architecture

Built in 2003, the Main Library building 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 104,000-square-foot 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 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.”

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