LBJ Presidential Library reopens again after shutting down due to COVID-19 resurgence over summer

Itza Martinez, News Reporter

The LBJ Presidential Library reopened to the general public last week after it closed in early August due to rising COVID-19 cases. 

The library, a federal building, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with COVID-19 precautions such as social distancing, limited capacity and required face masks, which it is allowed to implement despite state laws against such rules, said library director Mark Lawrence. The library is located on campus and is free to people with a University ID, but tickets must be reserved online beforehand.

Lawrence said the library initially opened in July after it closed when the pandemic first started. He said they had hoped to stay open and expand operations, but had to close again because of rising COVID-19 cases in the summer caused in part by the delta variant. Lawrence said they plan to make some of the COVID-19 policies optional if cases improve in Austin.

“It’s exciting to be opening the doors again after another long period of closure,” Lawrence said. “I think in some ways the last period since Aug. 9 has been more frustrating than the first time around, because we really felt like when we reopened in July that we would be open for good at that point, and then when the delta resurgence came along, it’s really just kind of demoralizing.”

Victoria Yu, the LBJ School of Public Affairs communications and marketing director, said in an email that students in the LBJ School of Public Affairs have access to special programs in the library such as tours and chances to interact with guest speakers like President Joe Biden.

“We are delighted about the reopening and the opportunities for student engagement,” Yu said.

Emily Ibarra, a public affairs graduate student, said she believes that having access to the library’s tools enriches their educational experience. They said they hope to read more about Black people’s history in America to see how that connects with their Latinx history.

Ibarra said she hopes the University will encourage students to explore their identities and histories through research at the library.

“UT doesn’t do a great job of encouraging students to explore their identities (and) to explore history,” Ibarra said. “I hope that it’s not just a reopening but a reimagining of what education is supposed to or could look like.”