By Richard Hallman, M.Ln.
Now in its 35th season, the popular game show “Jeopardy!” definitely has an appeal that some other game shows — Wheel of Fortune, for instance — don’t. That’s because it’s all about knowing stuff: Shakespeare, science, sports, American history, potpourri, and lots more.
If you’re a librarian, especially a reference librarian, you may have heard someone say, “I bet you’re good at ‘Jeopardy!’” once or twice in your career. The two librarians at my house stopped watching “Jeopardy!” a while back because it’s hard to eat dinner while screaming answers in the form of a question at the TV. The only way we could win would be as a team. I’d handle categories like World Leaders, while Fern would cover Show Tunes. We would just punt on Sports.
Many librarians love “Jeopardy!”, and since it’s on five nights a week, there have been quite a few librarian contestants over the years. In 2017, American Libraries estimated around 150 had been on the show since 2005. The magazine interviewed 11 of them, including one with whom my sister went to high school.
The American Libraries article said that since 2005 there had been 30 librarian champions, and that librarian contestants had won close to a million dollars on the show. That was before the “Giant Killer,” Emma Boettcher, took down James Holzhauer back in June. She performed her heroic deed just as Holzhauer was about to eclipse Ken Jennings’ record winnings of a little over $2.5 million. So hopefully, Jennings sent her a nice thank you card, or maybe just a check. Librarians are so helpful!
Boettcher is a user experience librarian, a job title that I’m pretty sure didn’t exist back when I was in library school. She majored in English as an undergraduate, so Shakespeare and other categories like Literature and Theater were right up her alley. Oh, and also she wrote a paper about “Jeopardy!” while in grad school, “using text mining to find out whether the readability of the show’s questions could predict their difficulty levels.” Duh!
Is it hard to get on the show? Boettcher first tried out when she was still in high school but didn’t get chosen. Nevertheless, she persisted, and it finally paid off, to the tune of just under $100,000 this year. She’ll be on a “special “Tournament of Champions” show in the first half of November along with Holzhauer and some other smarties so stay tuned.
Would you like to be a “Jeopardy!” contestant? Start here by registering, then use the online materials, including practice tests, along with your own smarts and study up.
May the best librarian crush!
Budding collection developer Richard Hallman finally set aside his dreams of becoming a rock star, movie director, and/or famous novelist to embrace librarianship. Click here for more.