About the Collection

In the HathiTrust Digital Library collection, you can find titles on everything from African History, Economics, and French Literature to Solar Energy, Public Health, and materials published in more than 400 languages. The digital library of 18+ million digitized items brings together the collections of more than 60 academic and research libraries from across North America and other countries. Users from around the world use the digital library for their undergraduate and graduate studies, personal research, genealogy, and professional purposes such as law and journalism. 

How was The Collection Built?

HathiTrust’s digital library came into being during the mid 2000s when companies such as Google began scanning print titles from the shelves of university and college campus libraries. When many of those same libraries created HathiTrust in 2008, they united library copies of those digitized books into a single, shared collection to make as much of the collection available for access as allowable by copyright law. 

Through HathiTrust, libraries collaborate on long-term management, preservation, and access of their collections. Book lovers and researchers like you can explore this huge collection of digitized materials! 

Today, HathiTrust Digital Library is the largest set of digitized books managed by academic and research libraries. The collection includes materials typically found on the shelves of North American university and college campuses with the benefit of being available online instead of scattered in buildings around the globe.

What’s in The Collection?

Our enormous collection includes thousands of years of human knowledge and published materials from around the world, selected by librarians and preserved in the libraries of academic and research libraries. You can find all kinds of digitized books and primary source materials to suit a wide range of research needs. Our collection is always growing, so check back!

Formats: Books and book-like items. This includes books, magazines, newspapers, sheet music, journals, and government documents. (There are no audio/visual files.)

Subjects: The collection represents all major Library of Congress subjects with the largest collections in Language & Literature, Philosophy, Religion, History, and Social Sciences. 

Publication Dates: Early items from 3rd and 4th centuries to more recent publications.

Languages: English language titles make up 51% of the collection followed by German, French, Spanish, and Russian. The 400+ other languages include Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, and Afrikaans, as well as materials from extinct languages like Coptic and Akkadian and constructed languages like Esperanto.

Sources: 95% of the collection was digitized from print by Google and contributed by member libraries. HathiTrust provides some titles that Google does not, such as digital collections and titles unique to each institution, as well as works from institutional repositories. Members continue to actively contribute content and build the collection.

Personal & Featured Collections: The library includes specialized collections from institutions and public collections gathered by individuals. You can also build your own HathiTrust library collections

Sample Collections 

Here are some sample collections you can explore.

Islamic Manuscripts, University of Michigan Collection

Making of America, Cornell University Library

Negro Universities Press 

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Women Composers Collection

U.S. Federal Documents  (Courtesy of the U.S. Federal Documents Program)

U.S. Congressional Serial Set

Bureau of Indian Affairs publications

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency publications

U.S. Civil Rights Commission

What Can I Access?

It is not required to have a membership or an account to use HathiTrust. We make as much of the collection available to search, read, and research, as allowable by copyright law. HathiTrust is not a subscription service and unlike a public or campus library, does not license copyrighted content for lending purposes. 

As an Individual: 

  • Anyone can read titles available to them in the public domain or by open access licensing. 
  • No one is able to read or download titles that are restricted by copyright law except in certain circumstances and services. 
  • HathiTrust member library users have some unique access options through emergency access and services for the print-disabled. 

By Specific Item

  • Some items are not available to read because they are copyrighted, which means laws restrict access to those books. (Listed as Limited (search-only)). You can search within these texts. 
  • Other items are open to read and/or download because they are in the public domain (which means copyright laws do not apply to those items) or licensed as open access (both are listed as Full View). Local copyright laws also impact the availability of titles to read, and restrictions from the vendors that digitized individual titles may impact how they can be downloaded.

We make these determinations based on digital data available in the item itself. You can read about all the different rights statuses that determine the type of access we are legally able to provide to each title.

HathiTrust Access Chart

Oops! Common Errors

Scanners' hands with pink finger protectors are sometimes visible in the scanned page images.
Many hours of human labor go into producing the digital books in our collection, so you’ll occasionally run into errors —  including the pink fingers of the original scanners! With millions of individually scanned pages, the collection includes human, as well as automated, errors that we address on a case-by-case basis. 

Text Errors: The searchable text of HathiTrust volumes is produced during digitization through a process called Optical Character Recognition (OCR). In most cases, a human has not corrected or checked the OCR. As a result, items may contain gibberish, misspellings, or incorrect languages.

Cataloging Errors: Each record includes information unique to each item in the collection and includes Title, Author, Date, Subject, and more. This “bibliographic metadata” is created by the library that contributed the volume and is sometimes incorrect, resulting in misidentified books, dates, or other cataloging errors.

Image Errors: You may find blurry pages, missing pages, torn pages, or other poor quality image errors, again attributed to the scale and human element of the mass digitization effort. 

We encourage you to report all types of errors to support@hathitrust.org and we will work with our digitization and contributing partners to make corrections. Improving the quality of the collection is an important part of what we do every day.

Future of the Collection

In 2021, HathiTrust member libraries adopted a framework of HathiTrust’s Digital Collection Principles for future collection building that we recognize will be shaped by a range of dynamic forces in the coming years. Through this framework, we orient our collections work toward justice, equity, and wide representation, and toward resilience in response to the changing economic, social, and environmental conditions in which we all work.


Contact our member-led user support team for help!