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Librarian in Crystal Lake on 'Jeopardy!'

CRYSTAL LAKE – A local librarian is scheduled to appear on the game show “Jeopardy!” later this month, making her the third librarian from McHenry County to appear on the program since 2010.

Julie Zukowski, 41, of Lakewood is scheduled to appear on the show May 24. She has worked at the Crystal Lake Public Library since 2005.

Zukowski took an online test in March 2011 before being invited to Kansas City for an audition in a hotel conference room. There, she quickly figured out that the contestants were being called on in a set order, regardless of when they buzzed in. That made the tryout less nerve-wracking, she said.

To prepare for the competition in Culver City, Calif., which was taped in January, Zukowski checked out several books from the library.

Among them were “Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs” by Ken Jennings; “Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!” by Bob Harris; and “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” by Joshua Foer.

Jennings won $2.52 million on a record 74 games of “Jeopardy!” Harris has been on the show 13 times, including the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions.

Zukowski also studied atlases, Shakespeare and opera.

In addition, Zukowski was regularly quizzed by her husband, Paul, and children – Frannie, 11, and Al, 9. The trivia questions became so common at home that Zukowski had to institute a rule that the questioner actually know the answer before asking. Otherwise, family activities would be interrupted to search for answers, she said.

Unlike many contestants, Zukowski isn’t a regular “Jeopardy!” viewer.

“I don’t watch all that often,” she said. “But it’s an icon – a big part of our lives.”

The show is in its 28th season.

Zukowski said she can’t reveal how she did on “Jeopardy!” until the show airs.

At least two other local librarians have appeared on “Jeopardy!” in recent years.

McHenry resident Karen Hoffman, who worked for the McHenry Public Library, appeared on an episode in March 2010. She led at the end of the Jeopardy! round, but fell behind in the Double Jeopardy! round and ended up in third place. Vijay Balse, a chemical engineer originally from Bombay, India, won that game, and several more.

Lake in the Hills resident Lynn Hammerlund, a college librarian and president of the Algonquin Area Public Library District board, appeared on two episodes earlier this year.

She was the game champion on Jan. 19, with one-day winnings of $22,500. The following day, when all three contestants were stumped by the Final Jeopardy! answer, Hammerlund came in third.

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