Influence on Community: Southern-born librarian is Fargo’s go-to planner

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

“Women of Influence” is an ongoing series exploring the women in our community who have the most impact and influence. Each profile will explore a different element of influence and redefine what it means.

Minnesota State University Moorhead Library Director Brittney Goodman is involved in such community events as the Fargo Film Festival, St. Patrick's Day Parade, SantaCon and more. David Samson / The Forum

MOORHEAD – Brittney Goodman spends her days navigating the stacks of the Minnesota State University Moorhead library. But good luck figuring out where to file this spunky librarian.

Goodman, the director of library services at MSUM, is a Southern-born social butterfly who loves Ray Bradbury, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a fabulously showy Kentucky Derby hat. Oh, and she makes a mean pulled pork.

The 47-year-old Fargo woman critiques films, books guests and hosts Q-and-A’s for the Fargo Film Festival. She helps organize parades, fundraisers and parties. She manages the social media marketing for a handful of them. And she does it all with style.

As a writer, Goodman says poems, essays and short stories come more easily to her than theses, screenplays or novels.

“Perhaps that’s why I like to plan events – there is a beginning and an ending that is finite, and you almost always get to have fun in the planning and the execution,” she says.

Artist friend Kim Jore, who met Goodman shortly after the librarian moved here in 1997, says her outgoing personality, focus and drive are what earned her a reputation as one of Fargo’s go-to planners.

“People know her as the person who loves to plan. She has a vision and great ideas for whatever she’s working on,” says Jore, also of Fargo.

When Goodman’s planning a party, friend Tracy Faleide says, she thinks about what kind of experience she wants guests to have every step of the way.

“She puts thought into the details, but she keeps the purpose in mind,” the Fargo woman says of her “sister from another mister.”

And when Goodman says she’s going to do something, you know she’ll get it done, Faleide says.

Maybe that’s why she’s asked to pitch in for so many things. Or maybe it’s the fact that she’s the type of person who can strike up a conversation with anybody and get them to laugh.

“She’s someone who is very interested in meeting new people; it’s like she’s an ambassador all the time,” Faleide says.

Film scouting

Goodman became a bibliophile early on. Growing up in Kentucky, she would walk to the tiny public library a few doors down from her mother’s hair salon. When she visited her uncle, who lived next door, she had unlimited books to choose from.

“They weren’t organized very well, but he would just let me go and take whatever I wanted,” she says.

Her other passion – film – was ignited around the same time, with regular movie dates with dad, including the original “Star Wars” in the theater.

Since childhood, the two forms of education, expression and entertainment have grown and intersected in different ways in Goodman’s life. Now, she says she watches more films than she reads books, but she also spends time reading film analysis and critique.

That’s partly how she’s helped the Fargo Film Festival grow from 33 movies in its first year to over 100 this year, its 14th.

“I don’t wait for the films to come to me,” Goodman says. “We’re still kind of a young film festival. To get the quality that we want, you do have to go out there and look at other festivals and what’s coming out and actually invite people to submit their films.”

Goodman’s “scouting” pays off. Her favorite film from last year, “Death of a Shadow,” for example, was nominated for an Oscar.

This year she’s most excited about the Friday night feature, “The Little Tin Man,” about an actor with dwarfism sick of being typecast as elves and Munchkins who takes matters into his own hands with the help of his friends.

“I think I’ve got a pretty good nose for what to solicit and what will probably show well in Fargo,” she says.

Goodman says the film fest and her beloved downtown Fargo mutually benefit each other.

“The film fest brings people in that would probably never come to Fargo. Then they go back to where they come from, and they tell people about Fargo, and then Fargo gets to be in the minds of people that might be doing some business traveling or pleasure traveling, and it increases our visibility as something beyond a frozen tundra,” she says.

Event planning

After the Fargo Film Festival, the Fargo-Moorhead St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes up most of the library director’s after-hours time. There’s no one organization nor any corporate sponsorship behind the parade, and she wants to keep it that way.

“We feel strongly that we want to keep it grassroots,” she says.

This year the parade starts at 2 p.m. on March 15. Goodman and her fellow volunteers encourage parade-goers to live-tweet the event using the event’s new Twitter handle, @fmstpats, and the hashtag #fmstpats14 so that each year they can aggregate parade photos.

After the spring melt, the Southern belle will no doubt don a new chapeau for Kentucky Derby 2014.

She started throwing Kentucky Derby parties in her Fargo home in 1999 as a way to introduce her new Midwestern friends to the tradition. She moved them to Dempsey’s when they grew too large for her house.

Then in December, it’s SantaCon, a Santa-themed downtown Fargo pub crawl that benefits one of Goodman’s favorite charities, Fargo’s Gladys Ray Shelter.

In fact, for her 47th birthday in January, Goodman asked guests to bring an item to donate to the shelter instead of a gift.

No matter what she’s planning, Goodman tries to make it fun. We work hard in this area, she says, but we also deserve to relax and celebrate – it’s part of being a healthy, balanced person, and community.

“This ‘transplant from Kentucky who never planned to live here more than a couple of years’ has fallen madly in love with the people of the Red River Valley,” she says, “and, well, I want to throw them a party – be it for the Kentucky Derby, or St. Patrick’s Day, or for sharing films at the Fargo Film Festival, or dressing up in Santa suits and spreading cheer.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590