I've heard there is a list of proverbs/mottos/aphorisms/reprimands on the wall of a Harvard Library. Where can I see them?

This seems to be a rumor that is prevalent on the Internet, particularly in China.  We have found no trace of any mottos on a Harvard library wall, and Professor Robert Darnton states unequivocally, "As the university librarian, I can attest that no such writings exist on any of the walls at Harvard's 73 libraries."  (The Wall Street Journal, "A generation of Chinese students draws inspiration from a hoax about Harvard. " Nov 15th, 2012)

There is also a thorough refutation at http://www3.sympatico.ca/dstephen1/harvardnonsense.htm.

Service Alert:
  • Ask a Librarian, including chat and email, will be suspended from 5:00 pm on Thursday, December 22, through Monday, January 2, for the holiday break. Any questions received during this period will be answered beginning Tuesday, January 2, 2024.
  • If If you're experiencing an ongoing technical issue when you attempt to access library materials with your HarvardKey during these times, please report it to Library Technology Services.



Monday-Thursday 9am-9pm

Friday-Saturday 9am-5pm

Sunday 12noon-7pm

Chat is intended for brief inquiries from the Harvard community.


Talk to a librarian for advice on defining your topic, developing your research strategy, and locating and using sources. Make an appointment now.

These services are intended primarily for Harvard University faculty, staff and students. If you are not affiliated with Harvard, please use these services only to request information about the Library and its collections.