By Ella DeMerritt
Grant High School freshman
and Hollywood Library Teen Council member
It’s the morning of another school day, and the light has yet to filter through the windows near the entrance to the Grant High School library. Early students sit at computers; others at tables that fill the room. And in the center of it all is Paige Battle, a bright smile behind the counter greeting students as they begin their day.
Battle – or as most students fondly know her, Ms. Battle – prescribes an exhausted student with the perfect remedy, leading the student over to a towering bookshelf. As with every student looking for a good novel, Battle recommends something she’s either read herself or researched.
Jennifer Xochihua, a colleague of Battle’s, says, “It’s amazing to me how she can recommend a book and know everything off the top of her head.” But recommending intriguing books is only one way that Battle does her job as an amazing librarian. She’s always eager to help a student in need.
It’s clear that she puts a lot of time and love into the library. Maybe it’s in the way that she smiles as she checks out a book, maybe it’s the unique posters covering her office, but there’s something about Battle that seems to brighten up students’ days. As she makes her rounds, she gently reprimands students for bringing food into the library. After all, she cares about making the library a studious environment for all Grant students. It’s a comforting place, and Battle makes sure of it.
But Battle wasn’t always working so hard in our library. Despite starting out in a teaching job with Portland Public Schools, she’s only worked in our library for five years. Prior to her accepting the librarian position at Grant, she opened a new school library in the Evergreen School District in Vancouver, Washington. Battle says that it was “an incredible, truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
And so she went to work at Union High School. “When you open a school library, it means you order every book that’s in the collection, pick out the furniture and the supplies, set it up and start the program,” Battle states, remembering how her time there drew her away from Portland, where she had previously worked as a librarian at Jefferson High School for eight years.
But soon enough, as fate would have it, she heard that there was a job opening at Grant as a temporary librarian, which was tempting, as her school district was facing some troubles and had eliminated all the teacher-librarian positions. So she mulled it over. What should she do? Eventually, she was interviewed and was offered the job at Grant; but on that same day, her job at her previous school opened back up and she was faced once again with the same impossible choice. Luckily for the students at Grant, she thought highly of the school and took the job there.
Battle works tirelessly as the librarian at Grant. And just as she always has, she cares for her students. She gets to be everyone’s teacher as a librarian, including herself.
“It’s awesome being in this position,” Battle says. “I mean, think about how many different students come in here every day and what kind of questions they have. Someone might ask, ‘What’s the population of South Sudan?’ I didn’t know, but I helped them look it up and now I do!”
“I’m always setting goals for myself” and asking “‘What’s the next thing?’” Battle says. She is looking forward to her newest projects at Grant. She speaks with excitement about starting an annual story slam at Grant, where she and a few students tell their interesting stories in front of a crowd at the library. She plans on starting more interactive events that will make more students come and join in to learn. After starting to amp up collaborations with the Hollywood branch of Multnomah County Library, Battle is extending her roots and watching a tree of learning and literature bloom throughout the school.
And at the end of the day, when silence has settled upon the library and the students have taken home their newly recommended books and said their thank yous, she wouldn’t have it any other way.