During the fifteen years I spent working at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, I was always curious about the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas. For obvious reasons, Johnson’s was the Library we regularly heard about – the place where the story continues. And since then, there have been other reasons to visit that part of Texas: Austin City Limits, the Alamo in San Antonio, and truthfully, we were interested in seeing what makes Austin the trendy place it is.
I’m certain 48 hours – Saturday in Austin and Sunday in San Antonio – is not enough to “get it,” but we fit in a lot of sightseeing, two bookstores, a Josh Ritter concert, lots of BBQ, a breakfast taco, a walking tour of the Alamo, and we left Texas with a list of places we want to visit on our next trip to the Lone Star State.
The LBJ Library was worth the trip. At first, I found it a bit unsettling in the sense that one of their starting points is Walter Cronkite’s announcement of President Kennedy’s death and Johnson’s swearing-in as the 36th President of the United States. Of course, that famous broadcast comes near the end of the exhibits at the JFK Library. Once I shifted my lens a bit, I entered into a fascinating story of a man who was able to use public sympathy after Kennedy’s death to generate public support for civil rights legislation, the escalation of the Vietnam War, and his dedication to the War on Poverty.
One thing I especially appreciate about the Johnson Library is that they include books, movie posters, and TV shows to mark the passage of time. The books gave me an anchor in each exhibit…
One of my favorite exhibits focuses on Lady Bird Johnson, including her office in the Johnson Library. It turns out I share something with the former First Lady. The sign on her desk reads:
“The floor was Mrs. Johnson’s favorite file for separating completed work from letters still to be signed.”
I don’t have letters waiting for my signature, but Lady Bird and I agree on the value of the floor as an extension of the desk:
It was impossible not to look at exhibits on immigration and civil rights without thinking about the current political climate. Here’s a poster that made us stop:
After a morning of American history, we visited two bookstores. South Congress Books, a used bookstore, is located on South Congress Street, one of Austin’s most vibrant neighborhoods.
It is a painting, rather than a book, that caught my eye here:
At first, I thought it would be a good painting for Inly’s middle school – a celebration of one our favorite books. But then I looked more closely: $895.00. Never mind. I asked to take a picture instead.
Next we traveled to Book People, the largest independent bookstore in Texas. We spent close to two hours in this store where, in the interest of a complete review, we had to try the cookies and hot chocolate in the cafe!
The best part of this store is the employee recommendations. It’s a big store with lots of sections, and the staff has highlighted many of the books with their reviews. The recommendations in the children’s department are especially creative:
It was hard to get back on the plane knowing it was 40 degrees colder in Boston than it was in Austin…but we will go back!