Library News

What is…an unforgettable experience?

Rebecca Bailey stands next to Ken Jennings on the Jeopardy! set
Jeopardy! host Ken Jennings with Northeastern librarian Rebecca Bailey

I’ve heard lots of questions about my experience being on Jeopardy!, so I thought I’d try to share some tidbits, especially now that the episode has aired. The Northeastern Global News article did a pretty good job outlining the audition process, so I’ll skip to the actual process of going on the show and what that was like.

So they called! Just after the holidays, I got the invite to come tape on February 8 at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California. There was so much info included with the invite: a “what to wear and NOT to wear” guide; all kinds of instructions: for getting to the studio, what to do upon arrival, the need to take a COVID test on-site the day before taping, what to bring, what not to bring; a set of social media guidelines that covered both posting about the experience (NO SPOILERS!) and advice about managing the responses and comments about your episode(s) that would inevitably bombard you afterward; and a HUGE questionnaire to solicit anecdotes about your life that they could ask you about on air. That document was crazy, there were at least 25 prompts from the relatively simple (“how did you meet your partner?”; “do you collect anything?”) to the fairly impossible (“what is your secret ambition?”; “everyone has a special talent or quality – what’s yours?”). They needed it back within five days. It said it was okay to skip some but to answer as many as possible. I spent a whole weekend thinking back over my life for interesting stories.

I keep getting asked how I prepared for the show. Truthfully I really didn’t do much. I’ve absorbed trivia for years, of course. But I didn’t have a whole lot of time to cram. The one thing I did do was learn some one-offs: there are lists online of phrases that pop up in Jeopardy! questions that can only refer to one person or thing. If they ask about a “New England silversmith,” it’s Paul Revere. Norwegian playwright? Ibsen. Finnish composer? Sibelius. There just aren’t any others well-known enough in those categories to ask about. So I checked out a few of those lists. But otherwise, as my husband told me, I was just going to have to “fight with the army you’ve got.”

So I flew out to LA on February 7, took a COVID test at the studio that afternoon, then was free until the next morning. On the day of taping, we had to report at 7:45 a.m. for a security check and a briefing on the COVID rules: masks at all times and no eating or drinking indoors. There were 10 or 11 of us mustered in the parking garage next to the studio for this briefing, and we started to get to know each other a bit: where we were from (all over the country!), who we brought with us, which of us was the returning champ. During this time, a producer also came around with an index card for each of us with five of our best anecdotes that they’d picked out, and we were to choose which one we wanted to use first. Five episodes would be filmed that day—the episodes for the week of April 24-28. We weren’t going to be allowed to watch from the studio audience when episodes other than our own were taping, both because of COVID rules and strict sequester policies to make sure there was no chance anyone could get any inside information from the host or writing staff. We were kept in a separate area, which turned out to be the Wheel of Fortune studio next door. So we spent the day in the audience seats for Wheel, with one or two staffers babysitting us and taking us outside for occasional snack breaks. (I desperately wanted to spin the Wheel, but alas, it was covered with a tarp and a giant sign that said not to touch under ANY circumstances.)

We had our hair and makeup done and met with wardrobe people about the outfits we’d brought. You have to bring 3 or 4 changes of clothes because if you win, you’re in the next episode, which is going to air on a different day, so you have to be in a different outfit. We had to turn our phones off and put them away for the rest of the day (so no pictures!). Then we had a rules briefing, going over all the details of how the game works. Finally, they took us next door to the Jeopardy! studio for a rehearsal, where we sat in the audience seats and everyone would have a turn to stand at the lecterns, play a brief round, get used to the buzzer and where to look. Suddenly Ken Jennings came out from backstage, in street clothes (odd to see, since he’s in fancy suits on the show), to give us a little pep talk. He said that no one should feel like an imposter: if we had made it that far, we absolutely deserved to be there. He said it would go by very fast and so we should try to breathe, take it in, enjoy it. Easy for him to say!

As part of making sure no one can get inside info, they drew two contestants’ names right before filming each episode. So, back in the Wheel studio, it was time to get ready for game 1, and they drew two names to be the challengers to the returning champ from the day before. Those two folks were off to have makeup touched up, get wired for sound, and get ready to play, and the rest of us were able to watch the taping on monitors from the audience section of Wheel.

It takes about the same amount of time to tape an episode as it does to watch it. They stop where the commercial breaks will be, for the same amount of time that the commercials will last and use that time for various things. During one break, Ken came over and stood next to each contestant in turn so they could take a publicity photo for each of us. During another break, they had Ken re-record two or three clues where he had tripped over a word or mispronounced something the first time so they could splice the corrected version in later. During the break just before Final Jeopardy, of course, the contestants are making their wagers. Once the episode is done, Ken and the winner have to go change clothes , and the other two contestants are de-microphoned and set free. At that point, if you’d lost, you could go sit in the audience, or stay in the Wheel of Fortune studio with everyone still waiting to play. There was about a half hour break before the next episode would be ready to start taping. They filmed three episodes, after which it was 2 p.m. and time for a late lunch break. They walked us over to an outdoor commissary area and fed us a very nice hot lunch; then it was back to the studio by 3 and time to tape game number 4—finally my name was drawn!

I have never been more petrified than I was when standing at the second lectern on the Alex Trebek Stage, hearing my name announced, and seeing Ken Jennings walk out to the host’s stand. The actual taping is a huge blur for me—afterwards I could only recall about six of the 12 categories that I’d just faced on the board. You’re in the game and so focused on trying to read each question, decide if you want to buzz in, and also waiting for the signal that it’s okay to buzz (there is a column of LEDs on each side of the game board that light up after the question is read, and you can’t buzz till they come on—if you are early, you get locked out for half a second, which is an eternity when the others are also buzzing). With all of that happening, your brain isn’t able to also make memories. Former contestants have talked about the “Jeopardy! fugue state” and they’re not kidding.

I had fully expected that I’d have trouble getting the hang of the buzzer and wouldn’t get to answer that many questions, and figured I’d likely be in a distant third place as the game went on. As it turned out, though, the aggressive play of the returning champ got him in trouble, as he was quick on the buzzer but was wrong a lot and lost money. My style was the opposite—I only even tried to ring in when I was quite sure of an answer, and so although I didn’t answer a ton of questions overall, I didn’t get any wrong and lost no money. Players can see their scores on a board up over where the cameras are, and as we got to Final Jeopardy I was floored to find myself in the lead. I only really knew wagering strategy for being in a distant third place, and had to scramble a bit to recall what to do as the front-runner. I remembered I needed to bet an amount that would put me $1 ahead if the guy in second place bet it all and doubled his score. But trying to do math under those circumstances, on a little index card that they’d handed me, under the lights on the Alex Trebek Stage—I triple-checked my numbers and was still not sure I wasn’t going to embarrass myself with a dumb wager.

As it turned out, my math was fine, and the wager correct, strategy-wise, but the final question was difficult. I didn’t want to leave it blank so I wrote something down, even though I was quite certain it was wrong. And it was. The second-place guy came up with the correct response, so he pulled ahead of me and very much deserved the win.

And that was it! I went back over to Wheel to collect my contestant swag (a tote bag and a baseball cap, each with the Jeopardy! logo). Then back to the Jeopardy! studio to finally sit in the audience there and watch game 5. It was honestly kind of a relief to just get to watch. The only bummer was that I did know the answer for Final Jeopardy in that last game, though none of the three contestants did. But I have no regrets, and honestly did better than I ever expected.

While the chance to play was amazing, I also want to mention how fun it was to hang out with the other contestants all day, especially the ones I got to know best as the day went on and we still hadn’t been chosen. We were cheering for the folks playing each game as we watched on the monitors, rooting for them to come up with the Daily Double answers, working together to answer the Final Jeopardy questions, all under this intense nervous energy. The camaraderie was fantastic. Several of us traded a bunch of nervous, excited messages this past week as our episodes aired. Another lovely surprise has been the warm welcome from the Jeopardy! alumni community at large: there’s a Facebook group for former contestants and that’s been really fun to become a part of.

If it were an option, would I do it again? I’m actually not sure: I had such a blast that day, kind of a perfect experience with the whole thing, that I wouldn’t want to ruin it with a second trip that didn’t live up to the first. Although if they called and invited me for a Librarians Tournament or something, not sure I could say no!

One Run: Resilience in the Wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing

At 2:49 p.m. on April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs were detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just over four hours after the start of the race. The aftermath of this disaster, on what should have been a joyful occasion, was devastating. Three spectators were killed, and 281 other people were injured. Many people in Boston and surrounding communities were affected and sought to find ways of healing from this trauma.

Among those seeking to make sense of this event were Northeastern English professors Dr. Ryan Cordell and Dr. Elizabeth Maddock Dillon. They noted the strong reactions in their students, including those not directly impacted by the bombing, and decided to collect public stories of the larger Boston community. They hired a team of graduate students to gather and organize contributions, with the goal of creating an online community archive reflecting on this event. Two graduate students from this original team, Dr. Jim McGrath and Dr. Alicia Peaker, later became co-directors of this project. Along the way, collaborations were established with the NPR radio station, WBUR, the Boston Globe, and the Boston Public Library. The goal of this collection, later entitled Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive, was to construct a public memory to foster a better sense of community in the wake of this tragedy.

The Our Marathon collection includes nearly 8,000 items, with materials ranging from letters to collages to oral histories and other first-person accounts collected by those who founded the project. This archive bears some resemblance to other projects that used crowdsourced materials in response to a public trauma, such as the September 11 Digital Archive (created in 2001) and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank (created in 2005 following hurricanes Katrina and Rita). All three of these projects also focus on the places where traumatic events have occurred. There is a strong emphasis in this collection on showing the implications of this attack for the local community, although materials also include letters sent to people in Boston from students around the world.

In this past year I have become familiar with these materials while adding to and editing some of the metadata for these items in the DRS to clarify the copyright status, associated names and subjects of these materials, as well as the languages used in certain items, for researchers. In surveying this collection, I was particularly intrigued by how the marathon community dealt with this trauma. This attack created a lot of fear and uncertainty around future marathons. In fact, the London Marathon was run six days later, and security was greatly increased there because of what had happened in Boston. But many marathoners in Boston and across the country defiantly raced again, and two of these races – both called “One Run” – are documented in the Our Marathon collection.

Several people run over the yellow and blue finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Runners at “One Run” event in Boston (May 2013). Photo courtesy of MarathonFoto Photographrs.

The first of these races, the “One Run” Boston Marathon event, took place on May 25, 2013. The bombings kept about 5,700 runners from finishing the original race on April 15, and so “One Run” was seen as a way for these runners to complete the final mile of the race. The Facebook post about the event also said “all are welcome to run – nobody will be turned away. This is a free event open to everyone. No registration is required.” This event was thus meant to be inclusive and healing, but it also allowed marathoners to re-experience the outcome of their race.

A video of the opening ceremony for “One Run” is available through the Our Marathon collection. During this ceremony, the national anthem is sung by the children’s choir of the St. Ann Parish, the church to which Martin Richard—an 8-year-old boy who was killed by the bombing—belonged.

Four people stand on the side of a road in what looks like a desert holding a white banner reading "One Run Boston Relay" and displaying a blue map of the United States with a white trail from Los Angeles to Boston. There are signatures all over the sign. Three of the people are wearing blue t-shirts that say "One Run Boston."
Carrying the Banner at the #onerun for Boston. June 11, 2013

Numerous photographs, contributed to this archive by MarathonFoto, also display the joy of the participants and their families as they cross the finish line.

The second race highlighted in the Our Marathon collection occurred a month later. “One Run for Boston” was a non-stop running relay of 3,328 miles, starting in Los Angeles on June 7, 2013, and ending in Boston on June 30, 2013. This race, organized by Danny Bent, Kate Treleaven and Jamie Hay, was a fundraiser, collecting $550,000 for the victims of the bombing through Boston’s One Fund.

The “One Run for Boston” race had an emotional finish. John Odom was badly injured while watching his daughter run on April 15. On June 30, his daughter, Nichole Reis, handed the baton to him in his wheelchair and pushed him over the finish line.

A man sitting in a wheelchair wearing a yellow raincoat over a Boston Strong shirt is smiling and surrounded by cheering runners wearing One Run Boston shirts
John Odom and “Miles” the Baton. July 1, 2013. Photo courtesy of Kristi Girdharry

Both of the “One Run” races served first and foremost as an acknowledgement of the suffering caused by the marathon bombing. They also served as a unifying force, made clear by the obvious camaraderie displayed in the photos here. But finally, these races allowed marathoners a kind of therapeutic experience – they took hold of a situation in which they were vulnerable and transformed it into an active reclamation.

Northeastern University Library strikes new agreements to support open access publishing

In partnership with the Office of the Provost, Northeastern University Library is taking steps to support open access publishing upon completion of agreements with two top publishers: Springer Nature and Wiley. The new agreements cover article processing charges (APCs) across each publisher’s portfolio of open access journals, eliminating the cost to Northeastern researchers who choose to publish open access or are mandated by funders to publish or otherwise disseminate research via open publications/platforms without barriers to access. These agreements build on Northeastern University Library’s existing subscriptions providing access to Springer Nature and Wiley content spanning ebooks, journals, and more.

Springer Nature
Northeastern University Library is among a leading group of research libraries to explore options and strike new, cost-effective transformative agreements. Along with MIT and Carnegie Mellon, the agreement covers APCs in all hybrid Springer Nature publications/imprints, including Springer, Adis, and Palgrave. Springer’s Guide for Authors offers detailed information.

Authors affiliated with Northeastern may publish open access at no charge in Wiley or Hindawi fully open access journals or in a hybrid journal. Wiley offers detailed information for authors on the publication process.

The new agreements in place run through 2025 and follow recent progress with other publishers including Cambridge University Press. A complete list of open access agreements and related publishing options are found on the library’s Open Access Publishing page.

Register for upcoming webinars to learn more about the agreements and related publication workflows for authors/potential authors. Two webinars with Springer Nature and two webinars with Wiley are scheduled for late March at times to enable colleagues from across global network time zones to participate

For more information, contact Evan Simpson, Associate Dean for Experiential Learning and Academic Engagement at Northeastern University Library.

NU Archives and Special Collections featured in Bill Russell: Legend

Black and white image of Bill Russell wearing a white Celtics uniform holds the ball while leaping with spread legs.
Action shot of Bill Russell playing for the Boston Celtics June 23, 1966 courtesy of the Boston Globe Library Collection.

For anyone who has browsed the Boston Globe Library Collection’s sports photographs in the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, some photos in the Netflix docuseries Bill Russell: Legend might look familiar. The docuseries was released on Netflix February 8 and features many photographs from our Boston Globe Library Collection and also draws upon the Archives’ records of Bill Russell’s social justice history.

Black and white image of Bill Russell wearing a dark jacket and tie and sitting in front of a machine.
Portrait of Bill Russell seated on April 17, 1966 taken by Gilbert E. Friedberg, Boston Globe.

The Netflix docuseries explored many facets of Russell’s life beyond his sports career, which mirrors the records of Bill Russell held in our collection. Along with photographs of Russell coaching and playing basketball, the Boston Globe Library Collection has photos of Russell speaking at school graduations, at press conferences at the Boston NAACP headquarters, at Roxbury neighborhood meetings, and at his restaurant Slade’s Bar and Grill. 

Russell is represented in our Special Collections as a frequent presence at Civil Rights demonstrations and Freedom Stay-Outs protesting the racial imbalance in the Boston Public Schools. In an interview, former president of the Boston NAACP branch Kenneth Guscott recalled seeing Russell: 

“I remember when we were marching down on one of the marches, there was more than one march, that the star from the Celtics, Bill Russell, he was very active in the civil right movement. When we were marching, Bill was there and he was right in the front line with us, right across. As they marched down Columbus Avenue, this lady came rushing up and said, wait for me, wait for me and she jumped in the line beside Bill Russell. It was his wife. She jumped in that line and started marching with us.”

Black and white image of Bill Russell sitting at a table and speaking into several microphones. There are two other men sitting on either side of him. On a window behind him are the letters NAACP. The photo is resting on top of a folder with a label "Russell, Bill (Basketball) Groups"
Photo of Bill Russell speaking at NAACP Headquarters July 8, 1964 seated next to Kenneth Guscott (left) and Marvin Gilmore (right), taken by Hal Sweeney, Boston Globe.

In a speech by Russell for the Freedom School graduation ceremonies in 1966, he closed by saying asking Roxbury students: 

“Is there anyone of you young people here tonight who wants to be President of the United States? Is there anyone who wants to be Secretary of the United States? Would you like to be Ambassador to the United Nations? Why not? 

Remember, you can do anything you want to do. If you want to do it badly enough.” 

Black and white image of Bill Russell, wearing a suite and speaking to a crowd of young Black teenagers. Russell is standing on the left and facing the crowd on the right. He is so tall that he has to stoop a little to reach the microphones.
Photo of Bill Russell speaking at PT Campbell Junior High Freedom Graduation, June 22, 1966, taken by Frank O’Brien, Boston Globe.

Russell’s legacy is preserved  in many archives and special special collections across the country, and many of those archives’ records were gathered to tell the story of Bill Russell’s life in Bill Russell: Legend. Learn more about the Bill Russell: Legend docuseries available through Netflix here.

To learn more about the collection that supplied many images of Bill Russell’s career, visit our Boston Globe Library Collection portal. To learn more about the Freedom Schools demonstrations Russell was a part of visit the Boston School Desegregation Project portal. 

You can listen to the full interview with Kenneth Guscott, taken as a part of the Lower Roxbury Black History Project, here

Elma Lewis, Black Art, and Black Joy

A Black woman with a large smile clutches her hands in front of her chest. She is wearing a multicolored top and her hair is in a large bun on the top of her head. Behind her is a bouquet of flowers.
“Elma Ina Lewis candid,” ca. 1981. National Center of Afro-American Artists records, Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections.

Northeastern University’s Archives and Special Collections holds many records documenting Boston’s Black history. Several of these that celebrate Black joy and creativity come from Elma Ina Lewis, a leader in Boston’s performing arts scene throughout the mid-20th century. The Elma Ina Lewis papers document her early life and her professional activities, like establishing the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts in 1950, the National Center of Afro-American Artists in 1968, and the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in 1969.

Black and white image of a Black man playing a drum with his hands. Children sit before him with their own drums.
“Babatunde Olatunji teaches heritage and drums,” ca. 1961. National Center of Afro-American Artists records, Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections.

The Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts records document the history of the school and administrative information regarding its formation as well as productions of Blakrhythms, which uplifted Black voices and cultural concepts. The National Center of Afro-American Artists records also feature performances like those put on by the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, and the Digital Repository Service (DRS) holds a selection of photos from the Center’s performances and rehearsals, as well as scenes from everyday life to form a well-rounded understanding of the Black community and art in Boston between the 1950s and 1990s.

Become familiar with Elma Lewis’ legacy in our Finding Elma Lewis research guide.

To learn more about Elma Lewis and her work, check out the resources available through the DRS and the Archives and Special Collections.

“Babatunde Olatunji teaches heritage and drums.” National Center of Afro-American Artists records (M042). Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Department.
“Elma Ina Lewis candid.” National Center of Afro-American Artists records (M042). Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Department.