Dave Bezotte: The Library's French Connection

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Heidi Bostic is happy to finally sing the praises of Librarian David Bezotte, whom she calls Michigan Tech's "unsung hero."

"He is very quiet, and he doesn't take credit for anything," says Bostic, chair of the Department of Humanities. "But he does so much."

Bezotte has come to the rescue many times for faculty in the humanities, whose research depends not upon experiments but upon others' original work. In Bostic's case, she was searching for two pieces of art to include in her upcoming book, "The Fiction of Enlightenment: Women of Reason in the French 18th Century."

"Last fall, I had to get busy finding the illustrations," she said. "The problem isn't getting permission to use them--they are in the public domain. The problem is finding the libraries that have them and then getting them scanned."

One of the images is the frontispiece to the 18th century French Encyclopédie. Another depicts a female writer of the time in conversation with Socrates.

In science and engineering research, graduate students are often available to help with research projects. Less so in the humanities, where faculty tend to work in lonely splendor.

"I was casting about, wondering who could help me, and then I thought, of course! Dave Bezotte. He speaks beautiful French, and he is so helpful."

It wasn't the usual query, Bezotte recalls. "We very seldom get requests for works of art. It's more likely for data on the properties of materials, that sort of thing."

Using the worldwide catalog World Cat, he located both works at several libraries and started tapping his fellow librarians for help. It took awhile to find two who would take the time to locate and scan the illustrations, but finally the University of Chicago and Michigan State University came through. The process took nearly three months.

"Those illustrations are absolutely pivotal to the book, and if he hadn't helped me, I'd probably still be sitting here trying to find them," Bostic says. "Dave was a dream come true."

Bezotte came to Michigan Tech in 1968 as a student and joined the library staff after graduating, working at the reference desk. He earned a master's in library science in 1984.

"I always liked the atmosphere and the positive people at the library," he said. He also enjoys working with students, including teaching them that research extends beyond the offerings of Wikipedia.

A Chassell native with French-Canadian roots, he speaks fluent French and actively promotes French-Canadian culture throughout the community.

"Dave has always been one of the most approachable librarians," said Christa Walck, interim director of the J. R. Van Pelt/Opie Library, who first worked with Bezotte as a faculty member in the School of Business and Economics. "A lot of faculty and students really appreciate him.

"When he staffed the reference desk, he always gave you service with a smile, so I wasn't at all surprised that he'd gone out of his way to do something that most librarians wouldn't be able to, in part because of his excellent French."

He has also been a pillar of strength for the Sigma Rho fraternity for over 30 years.

"Dave is the most reliable alumnus; he never misses a beat," said Mark Rogalski, chair of the Sigma Rho Communications Committee. Bezotte has taken many responsibilities as a member of the fraternity's incorporate board, including treasurer. "He's the glue that pulls everyone together," Rogalski said. "When there are lots of different voices, he's the voice of reason. Kids trying to run a fraternity need that. The quiet calm he brings to the table is just amazing."

Bezotte has been a mentor to a couple generations of pledges and brother, providing guidance and passing on traditions. And Sigma Rho benefited from his librarianship when Rogalski started to compile a history of the fraternity. "Dave helped me get documents from the Copper Country Archives, and the jewels we found go back to early 1900s," he said.

Plus, he's a hoot. "Dave's famous for saying 'You scallywag!' in a pirate voice," said Rogalski.

Bostic concurred. "Dave is one of those people who has made me glad to be at Michigan Tech," she said. "Hats off! Merci beaucoup!"

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.