Getting to Know You: John Shank

By: Gale Biddle

John Shank. Head Librarian by day, unpaid Uber driver for his kids by night. How awesome would that be as a business card! As the Head Librarian at Penn State Berks and the incredibly busy father of six – yes, you read that correctly- six kids, John certainly has his hands full. But he handles it all with a great sense of humor and gratitude.

John Shank Headshot

John was born in Los Angeles, California. His family moved to Indiana before he turned one. By his pre-teens, he was living in New Jersey, and by the time he was a teenager, he was living in
Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. He majored in Political Science at Earlham College, but he realized that he had no idea what he wanted to do since didn’t want to teach Political Science or be a politician. As fate would have it, he stumbled across a job opening at the Montgomery County Community Library. From there, his career path would be paved.

John worked at both Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges before settling in at Penn State Berks in July 2001. He began as the Instructional Design Librarian, which was a first-of-its-kind at Penn State. In that position, he worked as the liaison between teaching and learning groups, IT, and the Library in order to help faculty adopt appropriate educational technology into their curriculum. In 2014, he became the Head Librarian. He continues to teach and do research, especially in the area of instructional technology.

As you can imagine, John is going non-stop with his 6 children- Katie, 15, Sam, 13, Daniel, 11, Sarah, 9, and twins Rebecca and Rachel, 7. Along with his wife, Jennifer, he finds ways to enable his kids to do what they want to do. Between shuttling kids from one practice to another, he finds time to coach soccer and play tennis. In fact, all his children play tennis, too.  Unfortunately, all of this leaves little time for a pet, despite his children’s pleas for one. Jokingly, though, he says that he and his wife will get one as soon as the kids leave the house so that they can complain about how they never got to have a pet growing up!

When it comes to Penn State, John is thankful for how conscience people are about doing their job. He sees how people across the board in the Libraries approach their job with a sense of value to what they do and provide. He appreciates the diversity and opportunities that the University offers. But, like so many have said before, the best part of Penn State is just the
people. He said, “I love the people I work with. I haven’t worked with a better group.” I’m sure they would say the same about him.

Well, I’m going to go take a nap. After hearing John explain his after-work routine, I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

Ten Random Questions with John Shank

1. Favorite Movie? The Mission
2. Best gift you’ve ever given? Time together with family
3. First thing you do if you won the lottery? Figure out how to do the most good with it
4. If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be? Pachelbel’s Canon in in D Major
5. Talent you wished you had? Be able to play the piano and speak all languages fluently
6. Top 3 people, past or present, you would like to have dinner with? Any great, great, great grandparent to see where I came from: all the major religious figures (Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, etc.): George Washington
7. Caramel—pronounce it like care-a-mel or car-mel? Care-a-mel, but I don’t like caramel
8. Dream job (obviously aside from the Library)? Auto reviewer for Consumer Reports
9. Favorite cartoon or cartoon character? The Far Side
10. Most embarrassing moment you’re willing to admit to? Didn’t see a wet spot on the floor of the cafeteria in college. Did a complete wipeout with food and feet flying up in the air