Potter-Thomas Elementary School students were not used to using their library.
The second-floor library space had been neglected in recent years and used for storage.
All of that changed over the last month as volunteers from throughout the region moved in to renovate the library and haul in new books and equipment.
"Every chance we get, we peek in there," eighth grader Ngozi Atwood said, describing the students' mounting excitement over the project.
The pre-K-to-eighth-grade school at 3001 N. Sixth St. in North Philadelphia was selected in the spring as one of 32 schools in 30 cities to get a new library as a part of the Target School Library Makeovers program, which helps provide new facilities and resources to schools that need them the most.
Students and faculty finally got to see the revamped setup for the first time Friday. Throughout the day, two classes at a time were escorted into the new library.
"We are all very excited," said Dywonne Davis-Harris, the school's principal for two years. "We knew we had a need, but there were other schools that had needs also."
Potter-Thomas was selected because it met the program's criteria for the number of students reading below grade level, the number of poor children attending the school, and the school's need for a new library.
"We look at the actual facility to determine how much students and faculty could benefit," said Colleen Noland, vice president of programs for the Heart of America Foundation, which works with Target to produce the library makeovers.
On Friday, students walked into the library to see lime-green, powder-blue, and red walls instead of the original off-white walls, and bookshelves holding 2,000 new books. Four new computers were lined up along a wall. There were also tables, chairs, and a reading corner for younger children.
"I'm hoping that the books that have been selected will set off a fire of independent reading," said school librarian Michael Reavy, who has been with Potter-Thomas for two years after serving 30 years as a librarian in the Susquehanna Community School District.
The new books replaced Potter-Thomas' collection, which was 10 years old; many of its books were only in Spanish.
In addition, each of the school's 460 students were given seven new books to take home.
"It's important students get to take books home, to have their parents read to them, and to supplement what they're learning," said Jeanana Lloyd, a human-resources business partner at Target.
Lloyd was one of the 120 Target employees who donated time at Potter-Thomas on Friday to welcome each class into the new library, along with representatives from the Heart of America Foundation.
Target officials could not say how much this project cost, although each makeover typically costs $200,000.
Ngozi Atwood said she wanted a place where she could "hang out and have a place to learn in the school" other than the classroom.
Other students said they, too, were happy to have the new library.
"I want to be able to read at a high school level," said seventh grader Imoni Walker, "not just a seventh-grade level."
"If you saw the looks on the children's faces, this is a new day for us," Davis-Harris said.
Throughout the Philadelphia School District, many schools are in need of libraries, which are often considered an extra and subject to budget cuts.
According to the Philadelphia Association of School Librarians, most of the city's public schools don't have certified librarians. Some have no libraries at all; others have outdated collections.