John Green: Nerdfighter, Fighter for Free Speech

January 23, 2012

“Librarians adopted our social media presence way before anyone else,” said New York Times bestselling young adult author and vlogger extraordinaire John Green, who was at the 2012 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Dallas to promote his new book, The Fault in Our Stars. “And the only people who watched us were either librarians or teenagers who heard about us through their librarians.”

Wildly popular among the profession, Green addressed a crowd of approximately 600 people Sunday morning, January 22, at the Convention Center theater about how social networking relates to literature and how librarians can reach patrons through inventive social networking.

Green currently has more than 1.17 million Twitter followers, while his Vlogbrothers YouTube channel has 637,000 subscribers and draws 7 million viewers per month.

“There is no such thing as a non–social media internet,” he said. Dressed in jeans, Pumas, and gray sports jacket, Green spoke of social media’s ability to form community and to raise the discourse within it.

Following a similar theme, Green spoke later that evening at the Dallas Public Library on behalf of the Freedom to Read Foundation’s annual Banned Author Event. [Watch a clip (3:25) from his talk.] More than 300 people attended—including several hundred enthusiastic teens—many sitting on the floor and standing in the back of the over-capacity auditorium event to hear Green talk about the importance of supporting challenged books and defending the First Amendment.

Talking specifically about public education, the author said public learning doesn’t exist for parents or for children, “it exists for the social order.” When books are challenged, it ought to be a call to the community that something is wrong, Green said. And it becomes a test of wills. “When we give in,” he said, “it’s not just that they win, but that they win by default.”

Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska, was published seven years ago and was challenged for what the author described as a scene that was an “extremely clinical sexual encounter.” He advised teachers who face angry parents to have a frank discussion with them and tell them that “this is not what’s going to make your child a sexual being; that’s time.” Green also suggested educators talk with the Office for Intellectual Freedom for its expertise and possibly have a larger conversation with the school district.