Using HathiTrust for legal research

HathiTrust includes many primary legal materials and government documents, which are available as full-text PDFs since they are in the public domain. Among the materials available via HathiTrust are court opinions, legislative journals (floor debates), administrative decisions from various government agencies, and other government publications such as the Uniform Crime Reports. Using HathiTrust, I have located several obscure government publications that are held by five or fewer libraries. Even a year ago, the only way to get access to these titles would be through interlibrary loan. Since University of Chicago is a member library, our users can download full PDFs of public domain works. You will just need to log in with your CNetID and password.

The easiest way to locate HathiTrust e-books is to search for the title in Lens.  If a book is available from HathiTrust, an icon will appear in the record like in the example above. You can also search HathiTrust directly. Their search interface allows Boolean searching (AND, OR, and NOT) in both the catalog and the full text of the entire library. While there is no full text access to material that is under copyright, the full text can still be searched, allowing users to see how many times and on what pages a certain word or phrase appears in a particular title. HathiTrust also gives users the option of creating their own “private collection,” the full text of which can be searched as a whole.

The metadata and display is not always perfect, but HathiTrust welcomes feedback from users who find problem pages or have other comments on the service.