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This Is Librarians on Jeopardy!

Screenshot of three contestants on Jeopardy!

The internet and game show lovers are abuzz over librarian Rhone Talsma’s victory over trivia ace Amy Schneider on Jeopardy! on Wednesday night.

Talsma, a multimedia librarian at Chicago Ridge (Il.) Library, beat the long-running champ when she failed to come up with the correct response to the clue, "The only nation in the world whose name in English ends in an H, it's also one of the 10 most populous." (The answer is: "What is Bangladesh?"). The error left Schneider in second place and ended her 40-game winning streak.

Talsma netted more than $29,000 with his win. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he said that librarianship gave him an upper hand on his Jeopardy! debut: "It is literally in my job description to find answers to any question directed to me at the reference desk. Sitting at the desk for eight hours a day, I'm almost guaranteed to learn something new thanks to a question from one of our patrons."

In good company

Did you know that Talsma is one in a long list of librarians who have appeared on the show? Emma Boettcher, a librarian at the University of Chicago, famously ended James Holzhauer's 32-game winning streak in 2019. And there are many more!

Eleven librarians who have appeared on Jeopardy! spoke with American Libraries in 2017 about their experiences on the show, from tryouts and prepping to game day and beyond. It’s a fascinating read.

Julie Hornick, an instructional services librarian at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, appeared on the show in 2014. She told American Libraries of her preparation process: “I was a school librarian at the time. Before I went out to California for the taping, I told my students, “Come up to me any time of day with any kind of question.” If a student could ask a question that I couldn’t answer, I would give them a Dum Dum sucker. I don’t know if they enjoyed trying to stump me or they just wanted the sucker.”

And Jennifer Hills, a reference librarian at Twin Falls (Idaho) Public Libraries who appeared on the show in 2011, said that her appearance follows her around in everyday life: “I happened to be in the grocery store one night, and there was a gal on one of those scooter carts, and I’d go down an aisle, and she’d come down the same aisle. I was kind of getting creeped out. Finally, we came out in the produce section, and she said, “Were you the girl that was on Jeopardy!?”

Sadly, Talsma’s stint on Jeopardy! was short-lived—the librarian was defeated on Thursday’s show—but his legacy lives on. Who knows, sometime in the future Jeopardy!may even feature the clue: “Who was the Chicago Ridge librarian that set the internet on fire with an unlikely upset victory in 2022?”

Photo via Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

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