Thousands of Historical California Legislative Publications Digitized and Openly Available Online!

September 7, 2018

By Paul Fogel, Manager & Technical Lead, Mass Digitization, California Digital Library

California historical legislative research just got a bit easier. As a result of a collaboration between the California Office of Legislative Counsel and librarians at the University of California, Stanford University and the California State Library, nearly 4,000 California Assembly and Senate publications are now online and have been opened for reading access to everyone worldwide. They are available in the HathiTrust Digital Library as a featured collection, as well as individually in Google Books.

The project was initiated at the University of California’s California Digital Library (CDL) by current HathiTrust Program Officer for Federal Documents and Collections Heather Christenson.  CDL worked with California’s Office of Legislative Counsel to clarify language in recently approved California Assembly Bill no. 884 to confirm that the the collected set of historical publications of California legislative output are indeed in the public domain and can be broadly shared.  The recently opened volumes were digitized as part of the Google Books project from copies collected by UC Berkeley and many other university libraries and have been aggregated in the HathiTrust Digital Library, a partnership of over 140 academic and research libraries.

What are the California Legislative publications?

The collected California legislative materials include introduced bills, amended bills, and statutes of the California Assembly and Senate, some dating back to 1849, as well as published materials that support, augment or contextualize the bills. The supporting materials include legislative journals (dating back to 1849) that briefly summarize the proceedings of the California legislature (recording votes, who proposed or withdrew what legislation), in addition to journal appendices (which contain annual and special reports from various executive departments, commissions, and special panels, along with Senate and Assembly committee reports and documents), final bill histories, and constitutional amendments and resolutions.

What is in this collection?

In the table below are given the total number and date ranges for each of the various types of publications represented.


Number of Volumes




1911 – 1988



1849 – 2008

Final Histories


1973 – 2010



1849 – 2009

Journal Appendices


1855 – 1931

Constitutional Amendments


1964 – 2016

Final Calendars


1899 – 2011

The collection is not yet comprehensive, as there are gaps in the series for each publication type, and work will continue to locate copies of missing volumes, to digitize them, and to include them in this set of open materials.  One characteristic to note is that the historically published and bound volumes of California Bills do not capture all versions and revisions of a bill in the same way as the state’s Legislative Information website ( or the Office of the Chief Clerk of the California State Assembly (  Often, only the introduced version and an amended version of a Bill are printed in the publication.

Another caveat of this collection is that the volumes sourced for digitization were library copies that have been available for patron use for decades and may contain library stamps and marginalia. Occasional errors resulting from the digitization process may also be present.

 To contribute to the efforts to complete and correct these materials, please send communications to HathiTrust at


Use of the Collection

The HathiTrust collection built from these materials can be found at;c=1808948120.  Gathering these materials into a distinct collection within the HathiTrust Digital Library enables users to search within the full text of these materials without having to also search the full text of HathiTrust’s 16 million other books.  The library’s interface allows users to browse, directly read each volume, download one-page-at-a-time, and share.   Individuals affiliated with one of HathiTrust’s 140+ member institutions have special access to download full-work PDFs of the volumes. Data mining and textual analysis can be performed on the publications in the HathiTrust Research Center.


The authors would like to thank the following people for their support and contributions to this project: Diane Boyer-Vine and Lindsay Pealer from the California Office of Legislative Counsel; UC Berkeley’s Erik Mitchell, Elizabeth DuPuis, Marlene Harmon, Julie LeFevre, and Jesse Silva; Jutta Wiemhoff of the University of California’s Northern Regional Library Facility (NRLF); Ivy Anderson, Katie Fortney, Renata Ewing, Kathryn Stine and Paul Fogel from the California Digital Library; Stanford University’s Kris Kasianovitz; Heather Christenson, Jessica Rohr, Kristina Eden, Angelina Zaytsev and staff from the HathiTrust Digital Library; and the Google Books project.  For more information, please contact


1) The California LegInfo website only covers bills 1999 to the present, although a former version of the site does provide access to Assembly and Senate Bills from 1993-2016.  The website of the Office of the Chief Clerk of the Assembly collects Journals, Histories and Statutes going back to 1849, as well as collecting Daily publications dating back to 1995, but does not support text searches.


2) The text is produced from optical character recognition (OCR) systems and will contain errors.