Alternative Library Career: Quiz Show Researcher

Megan Hartline —  March 19, 2015 — Leave a comment

If I had to find a non-library career, I’d take my research skills, go to Hollywood and find a break into the television fact-checking business.

Three contests at podiums competing on Jeopardy

I’ll take “Research Careers” for $1000, Alex.

This glitzy dream is driven by a great AVClub interview: Jeopardy! Head Writer Billy Wisse talks about his career path. It sounds like a great job for a research-happy librarian:

. . . your job is to double-source all of those, so you make sure that every word in the clue is solid, and then secondarily, to check to see if the clue is pinned, which is quiz-show speak for making sure that there is only one correct answer . . . And that was the researcher job then. Aside from the technology changing, that’s the researcher job now.

More dream-fuel came with the description of the show’s reference collection (those 10,000 volumes probably need serious weeding – call me, Jeopardy!).

I was struck by Wisse’s description of how his job has changed since he became head writer:

Instead of primarily being responsible for producing categories independently, now I’m primarily responsible for supervising the other writers, supervising the researchers to some extent, and assembling the games. A little more of an executive function. I still do have some time to write categories, but that’s not my main job.

That sounds a lot like an administrative librarian career path, if you replace “write categories” with “staffing the ref desk,” and “assemble the games” with . . . actually, assembling games is pretty spot on for libraries.

Check out the AVClub interview for more fascinating insights into game show research, aQnd take note: working your way up the writing ladder isn’t the only way for librarians to retire happy from Jeopardy!.

Megan Hartline


Megan Hartline (@wrybrarian on Twitter) is librarian at the University of Michigan, where she manages physical collections and provides professional development. She holds a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Leadership, and is passionate about building community by connecting people with resources.

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