Posted on September 15, 2009
Singing the praises of HeinOnline
I would like to introduce to you one of my favorite databases: HeinOnline.
William S. Hein & Co. Inc. started 80 years ago as a preservation publisher. This means they would take long, out-of-print legal research material and reprint it in either hard copies or microfilm/fiche format. In the early 1990s, they started using digital technology to make this process easier. Little did they realize the future of digital technology!
In the late 1990s, Hein found itself in a unique position to help legal researchers around the world. Hein already had millions of pages in digital format as well as the microfilm/fiche that could easily be converted. Working with Cornell Information Technologies (Cornell University), Hein established HeinOnline, a product that give access to historical legal publications, previously unavailable through other sources. The cool part about it is that all of the documents would be in the original page-image format (PDF), ensuring the authenticity of the original hardcopy document in an online environment.
By mid-2000, HeinOnline was already on its way to changing online research. The value of fully searchable PDFs is beyond comprehension. Today, HeinOnline’s content spans multiple library collections with more than 40 million pages of research material, much of which is only available through HeinOnline. Here are some examples of things not available anywhere else (or at least not compiled so completely):
- English Reports, Full Reprint (1220-1867). English case law from 1220-1867. Seriously. Over 100,000 cases reprinted verbatim. 178 volumes.
- European Center for Minority Issues. Just as the name suggests, ECMI deals with minority issues all across Europe.
- Foreign & International Law Resources Database (FILRD). Contains more than 50 international yearbooks, U.S. Law Digests, Publications of The Hague Court of International Justice, and the Reports of International Arbitral Awards.
- Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS). Presents the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity and is comprised of more than 500 books. 1861 through 1975 (Lincoln through Nixon).
- Legal Classics. Offers more than 1,400 works from some of the greatest legal minds in history, including Joseph Story, Louis Brandeis, Benjamin N. Cardozo and Edwardo Coke. In addition to many “classics”, this collection includes rare items that are found in only a handful of libraries around the world. The collection focuses on constitutional law, political science, and other classic topics.
- National Moot Court Competition. This is a compilation of the records and briefs required for the National Moot Court Competition. The winning briefs are also available.
- Philip C. Jessup Library. Looking to participate in the Jessup Moot Court Competition or practice international law? This database is for you! It contains Ad Rem: The Magazine of the International Law Students Association, ASILS International Law Journal, ILSA Journal of International Law, and Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition Compendium.
- Subject Compilations of State Laws (1960-2009). Fifty-state serveys are a gathering of all of the laws on a particular subject and the bane of a first-year associate. This is a topical gathering of many 50-state serveys by topic.
- Treaties and Agreements Library. Contains ALL of the U.S. treaties, whether currently in force, expired or not yet officially published. This library is the world’s largest and most complete online collection of U.S. treaties and agreements. This HeinOnline library features a custom Treaty Metadata Search option that allows you to quickly locate a treaty and a summary of the key treaty information.
- U.S. Federal Legislative History Library. Really, two databases in one:
Sources of Compiled Legislative History Database: derived from the looseleaf publication Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories: A Bibliography of Government Documents, Periodical Articles, and Books by Nancy P. Johnson, Law Librarian and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law.
U.S. Federal Legislative History Title Collection: a collection of full-text legislative histories on some of the most important and historically significant legislation of our time. In addition to major complete legislative histories, this collection also includes texts related to legislative histories.
- U.S. Presidential Library. Includes such titles as Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Public Papers of the Presidents, CFR Title 3 (Presidents), Weekly Compilation of the Presidential Documents, Economic Report of the President, and other documents relating to U.S. presidents.
- World Trials Library. This collection includes more than 2,200 trials, including complete sets of American State Trials, Howell’s State Trials and the Nuremberg Trials. Additionally, you can find famous trials from the Jenkins Law Library World Trials collection and the University of Missouri-Columbia’s trials collection. We welcome your suggestions for additional content. In addition to trial transcripts and other critical court documents, this image-based (PDF) collection includes trial-related resources such as monographs, which analyze and debate the decisions of famous trials as well as biographies of many great trial lawyers in history.
Of course, law journals and federal material are also available. Buy why on earth would you use HeinOnline to pull a journal article available through another vendor?
I am sure you are familiar with the hierarchy of citations, right? Ideally, you would like a Supreme Court case followed by an appellate court case in your jurisdiction. A statute on point would be nice, too. After that, you get into hazy territory.
Well, did you know that there is a hierarchy of documents? It’s true. You see, the hard copy is most reliable, followed by an image of the original page (PDF). If all else fails, you can then call upon the digital world. If you are relying on the exact language or if you need to cite to a specific page, you really do need to look at the hard copy. But with so much material coming out so quickly mixed with space and time restraints, digital-imaging is becoming more and more prevalent and acceptible.
So PDFs are almost as good as hard copy. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an electronic database that was completely searchable with a sophisticated algorithm (you use the word “algorithm” all the time, right?) but would produce PDFs? Yes it would.