At 9:56 a.m. Wednesday, Max Samel-Garloff stood on the library steps to begin the final countdown of the library's opening.

"Four more minutes!" he cried through his miniature bullhorn. "Just a little tiny bit more. Four more minutes. Once more than three, one less than five."

The anticipation grew until Oregon poet laureate Lawson Inada concluded his specially-composed library poem: "Please, please, who has the keys?" he asked.

Branch manager Amy Blossom presented the keys to a cheering crowd and the kids, many of whom were escorted out of the library last April, raced back in.

Their first stop was story time with Sgt. Malcus Williams, who read the children's book "Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore," to usher in the new era at the Ashland Public Library.

"It's just a cheerful day," he said. "Even the weather's more upbeat than when the library closed."

In addition to the cider and cookies provided by the Friends of the Library, library revelers each found their own way to celebrate. Kaia Bucy, 10, found three books from the American Girls series she had not read yet. Dal Yockey brought his son Quinn in honor of his "two-and-a-half year birthday." Mckinley Ropers, 10, curled in an arm chair to read magazines. She also formed a new book club in honor of the libraries, so she and her friends could check out their first book""Newberry Medal-winner "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler"""from the library.

Home schooling families came to replenish their stocks after suffering through a long summer of class work without library books.

"It was a really long six months," said Becky Brown, whose three children use library books instead of textbooks. After months of borrowing books from friends and using Brown's childhood books, the family returned to check out 60 books, including several for a lesson about the moon.

"We do love the library," she said. "We'll be back tomorrow probably."

Double-edged sword

Although most saw the day as a cause for celebration, others felt it was tinged with the possibilities of what could have been.

"I feel like today is really a double-edged sword of days," said Mori Samel-Garloff as her two sons were busy hunting for books. "I feel really disempowered that our money is leaving the state to a private system."

She said she was glad her sons had a safe place to hang out again, but wished the libraries had stayed closed a bit longer, so more people would realize their importance and force the county to find a long-term solution, instead of relying on a private company. Library Systems Services, the Maryland-based company known as LSSI will run the library system for the next five years.

"I don't want (LSSI) to decide which books can be bought," Samel-Garloff said. "What if they decide Harry Potter's not a good book? They have the right to do that now."

LSSI 'confident'

LSSI representatives at the festivities said changes to library policy would only be made with recommendation by library staff and approval from county commissioners. The Maryland team said they would stay in Jackson County through the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition and increased usage.

"The library has been a focal point in some people's minds, so I think you'll find more people coming out," said Robert Windrow, LSSI vice president of marketing.

In the first hour, volunteer Josh Gordan said he helped four people apply for a new library card and answered 25 questions, twice the average. — p.m., patrons had checked out 1,455 items, compared to an average of 963 last October.

LSSI has already ordered new materials, although they did not have an exact number.

"We're trying to make sure the shelves are full of new materials, and I'm confident that people will be pleased," said LSSI President Robert Windrow.

As the remaining branches open throughout next week, LSSI will turn to the task of finding a library director for the Jackson County system, which could require a national search. They want to take their time finding the right fit for the community Windrow said, because "there will be a strong LSSI presence here for the foreseeable future."

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