The first-graders from Janet Bloch's classroom were buzzing around yesterday, going from tables to bookshelves and showing the books they had selected to their classmates.

Alyssa Garcia, 6, picked a book called Prairie Animals.

"I like to see the different animals," she said.

Michael Quinn, also 6, said he liked visiting the school library, and he liked reading.

"It's nice," he said. "You're in a different world."

When these Edwin Forrest Elementary first-graders started school last fall, the library wasn't ready.

It had been closed in November 2004 when school officials moved the books and shelves from a third-floor library room and placed them in the basement.

It was a basement room with exposed pipes on the ceiling and old linoleum floors with a drain in the middle. It even had a kitchen sink.

Forrest parents were outraged. They had raised $30,000 to fix up, decorate and reopen the third-floor library in the spring of 2003 after it had been shut during the 2001-02 school year.

But Philadelphia School District officials said they needed the refurbished third-floor space for new classrooms because Forrest, at Cottage and Bleigh streets, was overcrowded.

The school borders the Mayfair and Holmesburg neighborhoods and has nearly 900 students in kindergarten through fifth grades.

Yesterday, one of those once-angry parents, former Forrest Home and School President Karen Lash, was invited back to the school to cut the ribbon for the library's grand opening.

(Lash's children now attend the Math, Science and Technology Community Charter School, known as MaST, where she also works.)

"That was a tough time," Lash said yesterday, recalling the library's move to the basement.

"[But] to look at it now . . . it's a dream come true."

The children have been borrowing books for the past two or three weeks, but the official opening was yesterday.

Lorraine Rosenberg, a parent with two children at Forrest, is the new library technical assistant. All together, parents and the district raised about $25,000 to renovate the library, which has 5,000 books.

She said the library itself was ready some time ago, but Rosenberg had to go through training and the library had to be automated.

It has a bank of new computers to help students improve their reading skills and for general research.

Forrest Principal Patricia Epps, who had just arrived at the school the year the library was moved, said the entire school community is happy now.

"We're excited about it," Epps said. "I always supported the parents in their efforts."

After the first-graders left, it was time for Bernice Flad's third-grade class to visit.

Of 28 students who checked out books last week, only two forgot to return books yesterday, she said.

"There's a real interest in books," Flad said of her pupils. "If it's too cold out for recess, I see them taking their books to read.

"Or they're always showing each other the books they have. Anthony had a book on spiders and Steven had a book on rocks and minerals.

"They were showing each other the things they were reading in their books."

"We're lucky," said a teacher who didn't want her name used. "There aren't too many elementary schools with libraries." *