Review of HeinOnline’s World Treaty Library

By Jim Hart

treatySince HeinOnline’s beginning in 2000, it has been “named to the Econtent 100, ‘a list of companies that matter most in the digital content industry’”; has won AALL’s Best New Product Award three times; and has grown to 54 libraries, some of which are full-text, some indexes, and some both. Some contain only primary sources; some contain only secondary sources; and some a mixture. The most recent addition to the list of HeinOnline libraries is the World Treaty Library, which covers the period from 1648 to the present. This is a truly monumental library. Hein’s description says, “All together more than 180,000 treaty records have been identified.”

When you first open the World Treaty Library, you see the horizontal, light blue banner just below the title that is labelled “Browse Options.” The majority of the options in this section list their contents by title for browsing and the titles link to full-text.

All the databases in Browse Options follow this pattern except the Treaty Index and Bibliography. The records in the Bibliography database are all linked to their WorldCat records by the ISBN or OCLC number. I seem to have gotten too used to full-text databases from HeinOnline’s other libraries so I found myself wondering how useful the bibliographic records are. Perhaps I’ve forgotten the days when ILL was new.

The Treaty Index is the default link that is selected when you first bring up the World Treaty Library. Although the Browse Options banner is still at the top, it is the databases in the white box below the templates that are now active. These databases are all indexes, although the bibliographic records in the United Nations Treaty Series, Hein’s U.S. Treaty Index, Historical Treaty Index, Martens’ Treaties, and the League of Nations Treaty Series link to the full-text of the treaties.

Hein has said that 80% of the bibliographic records in the indexes are linked to full-text treaties. Of course this varies by index. Here are three indexes with the percent of records with links to full-text: Rohn’s World Treaty Index 44.4%, Multilateral Treaty Calendar 82% and Historical Treaty Index 100%. (Email from Steve Roses to Susan Gualtier, 13/2/2014.) As I understand it, the Historical Treaty Index is the same as Parry’s Consolidated Treaty Series so, of course, Hein has all the full-text treaties in that set. Hein says that the treaties in Rohn’s World Treaty Index and the Multilateral Treaty Calendar link to full-text if the source cited is available in the World Treaty Library. (Email from Miranda Barell, Customer Service HeinOnline, 11/26/2014.)

The strengths of the World Treaty Library are the complete holdings of full-text treaties in Major Treaty Collections; Historical Treaty Index, U.S. Treaties and Agreements; and U.N. Treaty Publications. I would add Scholarly Articles to this list because it pulls articles about treaties from the Law Journal Library.   Although the U.S. and U.N. treaty collections are duplicated from other HeinOnline libraries and widely held on their own, Major Treaty Collections holds things that are rare such as the British Foreign and State Papers 1814-1968; Martens Treaties 1817-1944, which itself includes 9 more titles; and J. Dunont’s Corps Universel Diplomatique du Droit des Gens (1726-1731). I would also add Hein’s sophisticated search capabilities including template selections specific to treaties such as treaty numbers and operators such as grouping, field grouping, fuzzy searches, and boosting. A third strength is the external sources that include many authoritative library subject guides to treaty research as well as some lists (Avalon and Canada) and explanations of treaty practice and procedure .

The one clear weakness that I can find is that the World Treaty Library lacks the full-text of the Bibliography database citations, Rohn’s World Treaty Index, and Multilateral Treaty Calendar.

Finally, let me give Catherine Deane’s AALL blog post its due. Although she concludes that the World Treaty Library is worth buying, she explains its strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses include the duplication of the U.N. and U.S. treaty collections from other HeinOnline libraries. Catherine turns this on its head, however, by noting that the World Treaty Library allows us to search all these databases at once. Catherine rightly finds that the extra cost of duplicate content is reduced by the discount for the duplication for Core and United Nation Law Collection subscribers. She also concludes that “…the duplicative materials seemed to be a fairly small portion of all of the documents offered in the World Treaty Collection….” This point also turns out to be both a strength and a weakness. Hein says, “Approximately 50% of the content in the World Treaty Library is unique to the collection.” (Email from Steve Roses to Susan Gualtier, 13/2/2014.) Therefore 50% is duplicated. In the end it seems to me that the question is whether the discount pays for the duplication. I’ll leave it up to you to decide. For Catherine some of the World Treaty Library’s features are both strengths and weaknesses. You’ll have to judge which one they are for your situation.

As I said at the beginning, this library is monumental and complex. Its enormous content and Hein’s strong searching capabilities recommend buying it. I say this, however, without comparison to other sources and a number of features that are both strengths and weaknesses. In the end you’ll have to judge yourself whether those features are strengths or weaknesses to your library.

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