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Library workers return to work Wednesday to prepare for eventual reopening. Exactly when? Unclear.

When libraries reopen, children’s toys will be gone and furniture and other equipment will be farther apart.

Children look for a good book at Sulzer Regional Library on the North Side.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office says no decision has been made about when Chicago Public Libraries will reopen to the public.
Sun-Times file

It’s unclear when Chicago’s 81 libraries will reopen, but staff are returning to their jobs Wednesday to prepare for the day when doors will be flung open and patrons will be welcomed back.

“Absolutely no date has been set to open libraries to the public, and any reopening decision would be consistent with public health guidance and dependent on where our data is at that time,” Jordan Troy, a spokesman for Mayor Lightfoot, said in an email Friday.

“As the mayor has stated since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, every decision made in city government will be guided by science and data.”

Libraries have been closed since March 21.

The state’s stay-at-home order expires at the end of May — and libraries could open as early as June 1 — but reopening libraries, along with countless other gathering places, depends on the success of efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Chicago libraries will look and feel a little different when people return.

Library Commissioner Andrea Telli laid out some of the changes in an email sent Thursday to library staff.

There will be new visitor capacity limits, furniture that’s spread farther apart and public meeting and study rooms that will be off limits until further notice. Children’s toys will be removed. And library materials will be quarantined before going back into circulation.

There will also be extra hand sanitizer, more frequent cleanings, and more security guards in libraries to ensure social distancing and face covering protocols are being followed.

And all library workers will receive cloth face masks and disposable gloves from the city.

“We are at the starting gate of a marathon and will take our first steps together on May 20,” Telli wrote to her staff.