Although the chaos of construction crews had ended just hours earlier, Bass Library re-opened at midnight Friday to crowds of rowdy students and a ceremonial procession depositing the first books into the newly-renovated underground library.

The library — which first opened in 1971 as the Cross Campus Library — was entirely gutted in the course of its nearly 18-month renovation, which aimed to transform the formerly barren, fluorescent-lit library from the forlorn underground cavern it once was into a 21st century study space. The new library, renamed after prominent Yale benefactor Robert Bass ’71, is complete with leather chairs, wood paneling and a cafe operated by the Yale Sustainable Food Project.

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The opening of the library was delayed two months, and construction equipment was still visible on Cross Campus even as the library opened its doors for the first time at midnight. But after viewing the results of the nearly $50 million renovation, students said they liked what they saw.

The library’s unveiling was preceded by an hour-long celebration on Cross Campus that featured a brass quintet and drew more than 1,000 students to enjoy hot chocolate and kettle corn.

More than a thousand students were estimated to have been in attendance.

After counting down as if celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square, the throngs of students pushed into the library at the stroke of midnight. For the next hour, students roamed the new library’s study areas and stacks, marveling at the top-to-bottom transformation that the library had undergone.

“It’s a wonderful moment,” University Librarian Alice Prochaska said. “The library is looking beautiful.”

The $47.8 million renovation brought wireless Internet, updated decor and the new YSFP cafe, which seemed to generate the most buzz among students before the opening.

The library’s debut — originally scheduled for the start of this academic year — was delayed nearly two months as construction wrapped up, and most work crews decamped from Cross Campus only this week. Prochaska said library staff did not know until “the last minute” whether the library would be ready for the opening.

On Thursday, construction workers and University library staff were busy tending to everything from installing handrails to clearing away any last construction debris, Danuta Nitecki, an associate University librarian, said.

“Essentially, we were working to get a number of finishing touches in place,” Nitecki said yesterday afternoon. “We will continue over the next several weeks, probably … fine-tuning some of the various touches.”

The library will re-open today at 8:30 a.m., although crews will be working over the next several days — mostly during the night, when the library is closed — to move the library’s collection from its temporary home in Sterling Memorial Library to the underground library’s stacks.

The Library Cafe, meanwhile, will not officially open until Tuesday morning, Karen Dougherty, director of communications for Yale Dining Services, said. Construction crews are still in the process of finishing the cafe itself, she said, and employees need time to be trained and to prepare for the cafe’s opening before they will be ready to serve customers.

University staff and library employees have been invited to come to the cafe at designated times before Tuesday to sample its offerings, giving cafe employees a chance to familiarize themselves with the cafe’s equipment and recipes, Dougherty said.

Yale officials announced earlier this month that the library would be rechristened Bass Library in honor of Bass and his wife, Anne, who donated $13 million to help fund the renovations. Members of the Bass family were not present for the ceremony, but they will be on hand when the library is officially re-dedicated next month, Prochaska said.

The new library features four electronic classrooms for up to 28 people each and group study rooms featuring plasma screens and smartboards. Among the architectural elements in the new library are custom-crafted tapestries, a tile frieze entryway and clusters of flat-screen computers.

Before its facelift, CCL was infamous among students for its perpetually leaky roofs and 1980s-era computer clusters. But students said the new space was much-improved.

“It’s changed so much,” Norie Pride ’08 said upon entering the library. “It went from the ’70s to the modern age.”

As students walked down the stairs into the library, many reacted with childish glee. “Oh my God,” one female student exclaimed to a friend, pointing to the warmly-lit study spaces and inviting armchairs. “Can you believe this?”

Another student mused that if Bass were a contestant on “America’s Next Top Library,” it would win, hands down.

Justin Zaremby ’03 LAW ’10, who studied in the old CCL as an undergraduate, said he could not wait for three more years in the new-and-improved library.

“It’s completely stunning,” he said. “Some people even broke in early to start studying!”

—Nicolas Niarchos contributed reporting.