Brittney Otero preserves the deserted school library during pandemic


James Broock

In terms of the way things are currently run in the library, Otero states, “It’s changed in the work that I do, mostly by having to… come up with creative ways to still provide the resources that [students] need.”

Kristie Kim, Social Coordinator

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Brittney Otero is still playing an active role on Burlingame’s staff as the library media technician for the school library. Otero is passionate about books and connecting people with resources, and she is on her path to becoming a professional librarian. 


The method of borrowing books was impaired at the start of the pandemic, and Otero has since come up with different ways to give out books and resources to those that need them — for both personal and educational purposes. 


“[I’ve] still been connecting students or faculty with the books that they need by arranging those big distribution days,” Otero said. “And then throughout the semester, I have been coordinating pickups through the front of the school, so it’s kind of a nice Covid-safe way of making sure that students that still need materials can get them.”


During the pandemic, technology has had an opportunity to shine, as students and teachers rely on online resources to complete and assign schoolwork. Otero also assists the school community with computer-related resources more than ever before.


“Virtually, I’ve been helping a lot more with tech problems because… now that everything’s online [I assist] students that have issues logging into Canvas, maybe with their Zoom accounts, with their Chromebooks not working properly, things along those lines,” Otero said. 


Otero usually comes onto campus, where she checks and responds to any messages on her computer. However, she also does work away from the screen.


“If I’m not checking emails or responding to them or phone calls, then I’m trying to organize the craziness that’s in the library,” Otero said. “There [are] piles and piles of books and stuff that kind of got stored here since we had to make the sudden change last year.”


Due to the pandemic only small groups of students are on campus at a time and while there are not as many people who can visit the library, Otero has been able to see a few people. 


“Right now, I’m usually seeing the campus aides… Now that we have pods in the library, we have substitute teachers or the campus aides to help monitor those students [that] have questions or needs,” Otero said. “Besides that, I’m usually working pretty independently.”


Burlingame and other schools in the San Mateo Union High School District will reopen on April 1, and Otero feels bittersweet about students coming onto campus again. At the same time, she understands that the circumstances will not be the same as before and is cautious about the physical-safety aspect of returning. She hopes everyone will be able to stay safe, and with following the protocols, Otero believes that not as many students will be able to flow in and out of the library as before.


“Communal spaces like the library probably won’t be open as normal… it’ll probably just be closed off because it’s going to be used as a space to house students that have holes [in their schedule],” Otero said. “They do want to limit cross-contamination… so things will be cleaned a lot more regularly.”


After a year’s worth of difficulties, Otero manages to find some positivity.


“I think the one thing that… can be felt all around, and I have felt it even in my position, is the willingness of the different faculty, staff members, departments to work with one another,” Otero said. “I’ve been so amazed by everyone’s willingness to help when stuff is kind of turned upside down, and it requires a lot more thought and hard work to go into making something that would normally be simple.”