“The Oriole Park Branch of the Chicago Public Library” by S.M. O’Connor

The Oriole Park Branch of the Chicago Public Library is located at the eastern end of the Chicago Park District’s Oriole Park, near the city’s frontier with the northwestern suburb of Harwood Heights, Illinois.  It is in the Oriole Park neighborhood.  [There are two branches of the Chicago Public Library in Norwood Park (Community Area #10) on the Far North Side (or Northwest Side) of Chicago: Roden and Oriole Park.] This branch library is across a parking lot from Oriole Fieldhouse.

This iteration of the Oriole Park Branch Library opened on June 1, 2004 and was dedicated on June 22, 2004. It replaced a storefront branch. This branch began as a bookmobile service in the early 1960s. In 1965, the branch moved into a storefront in the Harlem-Foster Shopping Center, making it the first branch of the Chicago Public Library to be located in a shopping mall. In April of 1971, the Oriole Park Branch Library moved to a 3,000-square-foot storefront at 5201 North Oketo Avenue, where it remained until it re-opened at the present 14,000-square-foot site.

The branch has artwork funded through the Percent for Art Ordinance administered by the City of Chicago Public Art Program and a reading garden.  The artworks include a painting by Kathleen King and paintings by Elaine Pawlowicz. The Oriole Park Branch Library has a reading garden, like the Albany Park, Beverly Branch, Brighton Park, Budlong Woods, George Cleveland Hall, Thurgood Marshall, Dunning, and Rogers Park Branch Libraries.

The Architect of Record is Jackson Architects, L.L.C. and the General Contractor is H.L.F. Construction Company, Inc.  The Oriole Park Branch Library features environmentally sustainable construction under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

On December 11, 2001, the Public Building Commission of Chicago (P.B.C.) announced the P.B.C. had formally accepted Chicago Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey’s request to build a new Oriole Park Branch Library at 7450 West Balmoral Avenue.  Eleven months later, on November 12, 2002, the P.B.C. announced, “A new Chicago Public Library branch in Oriole Park will be built by HLF Construction Company under a $4.4 million contract approved today by the Public Building Commission of Chicago (PBC).”

Awarding of the contract followed City Council approval of a quit-claim deed that allowed the Chicago Board of Education to transfer a site at 7454 West Balmoral Avenue to the City of Chicago for the new library. Plans called for a 14,000-square-foot branch facility to replace the old storefront library, officials said. The one-story branch would be about six times the size of the old storefront library.  Officials said the new Oriole Park Branch Library would feature a comprehensive collection of materials for adults, teenagers and children, including Internet access, more than forty electronic databases, books-on-tape, newspapers and periodicals. A community room and expanded parking were also planned, and the library would be fully accessible to disabled people.  Under terms of the contract, HLF Construction committed to a 28% level of participation in the project by Minority Business Enterprises, and 5% participation by Women Business Enterprises.

The facility met the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (1991) and was designed to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by the U. S. Green Building Council.  The P.B.C. expected the Oriole Park Branch Library to be 20% more efficient than required by the new Chicago Energy Conservation Code.

It has an energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, and a lighting system that automatically adjusts to make maximum use of natural daylight.  At least 5% of the building is made from recycled materials, and more than 20% of the materials were manufactured within 500 miles of Chicago. The parking lot was made from highly reflective concrete to reduce the urban heat island effect, and includes an electric car recharging area.

Calling it “the cornerstone of a strong community,” Mayor Richard M. Daley celebrated the grand opening of the Oriole Park Branch Library on June 22, 2004.  This was the forty-fourth new or fully renovated library to open since Daley became mayor in 1989.

The Oriole Park Branch Library was built at a cost of $5,000,000, of which $1,200,000 came from the State of Illinois.  When it opened, it contained a $400,000 collection of books, newspapers, and magazines for children, teens and adults.

“Libraries are community anchors, and they contribute immeasurably to the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” Mayor Daley said at the ceremony.  “That’s why my administration has placed such a high priority on libraries, even at a time when budgets are very tight.”

Daley noted that the City of Chicago’s commitment to libraries “extends beyond bricks and mortar.”  The C.P.L. had recently offered jobs to seventeen librarians who had received, or would soon receive, M.L.S. degrees, he said.  Later, in the summer of 2004, twenty-three more new librarians would be hired or promoted.   “This is the single largest group of new librarians being hired by an urban public library in America this year,” Mr. Daley said.

He urged parents and guardians to enroll their children in the C.P.L.’s Summer Reading Program, which was based on the Olympics.  Officials announced children who participated in the Summer Reading Program and made weekly book reports would have a chance to win t-shirts, paperback books, and other prizes. [In 2003, more than 36,000 children read more than 582,000 books during the Summer Reading Program.]  In addition to offering the Summer Reading Program, the Oriole Park Branch Library would host numerous programs for children, including story times, family programs and craft and holiday celebrations. Adult and young adult programs will include book discussions, author appearances and many educational, cultural and other programs of community interest.

Saturday, June 26, 2004 was Oriole Park Branch Family Day. Between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., the Oriole Park Branch Library hosted crafts, storytelling and other fun activities. Patrons had the opportunity to get to know their library and sign up for library programs.

On October 28, 2009, the Chicago Public Building Commission (PBC) included the Oriole Park Branch Library on a list of LEED-certified buildings: Bucktown/Wicker Park Library (Certified), Budlong Woods Library (Certified), Logan Square Library (Silver), Oriole Park Library (Certified), Vodak/East Side Library (Certified), West Chicago Avenue Library (Certified), West Englewood Library (Certified), and West Pullman Library (Certified).

Originally, the Oriole Park Branch Library was open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.  Later, it was now open from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Mondays; from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesdays; and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.  Now, the Oriole Park Branch Library is closed on Sundays and open from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Community Meeting Room auditorium can accommodate 120 people (ninety-four seated).  One can apply to book the room up to three months before the event, but not less than seven days before the event.  The branch manager must approve the event.  An applicant will be notified whether or not his or her application has been approved within three days.

The address is 7454 West Balmoral Avenue in Chicago, Illinois 60656. The phone number there is (312) 744-1965.




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