History of Hein & Libraries

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William S. Hein & Co., Inc. has been serving the law library community for nearly 90 years.  Today in honor of Library Week, we take a look back at the history of the Hein Company and how it has grown to meet the changing needs of the library community.

How It All Began

Our true beginnings can be traced back to the early 1920s, when Fred O. Dennis began selling law books and legal forms from his office in Buffalo, NY. At the time, Ohio’s numerous county law libraries were in need of the session laws and other reports from all of the states in the Union. Dennis began to network on a nationwide scale, traveling from law library to law library in order to fill the needs of the Ohio county law libraries. In his travels, Dennis became intimately familiar with the collections of the nation’s law libraries, an intimacy which quickly earned him the respect and trust of law librarians. In 1940, Dennis published Law Library News, the first service of its type, which provided information on new law titles, along with brief descriptions. Very shortly after this, the need arose for supplying out-of-print Government Printing Office (GPO) documents, and Dennis again met the needs of his customers by becoming one of the major reprinters in the nation for out-of-print GPO documents. Other reprint titles soon followed, including the first 25 volumes of Yale Law Journal and many other legal periodicals and legal classics.

The Founding of William S. Hein & Co., Inc.

hein blueAt the age of 16, William S. Hein Sr. became an apprentice to his uncle, Fred O. Dennis, who began to teach him everything he knew about the law publishing business. Bill remained with the Fred O. Dennis company for 27 years, but the innate desire to own his own company led to his departure from his uncle’s business. In 1961 Bill and his wife Ilene started William S. Hein & Co., Inc. Within just a few years, Hein became one of the major law book reprinters in the United States, and this foothold allowed for expansion into original publications. In 1974, the microform division of William S. Hein & Co., Inc. was launched, propelling the company into the modern age of collection development. Also during this time, Hein expanded into many other law library services, including periodical distribution, subscription services, and continuations services. All of these were created with one goal in mind: to satisfy the needs of the law librarian and make his or her job easier. In his time, Bill Hein Sr. was credited with no fewer than three landmark achievements: his ability to perceive changes in legal education and research; his realization that microforms were necessary to help libraries deal with space issues; and his ability to open foreign markets to American law books. When he died in 1976, Bill Hein Sr. left the company in the able hands of his family and dedicated employees, who had worked behind the scenes to help create the Company’s success.

In late 1976, Bill Hein’s son, William S. Hein Jr., made his first major mark on the Company and its customers by acquiring the Nebrich Bindery. This acquisition allowed Hein to have total quality control over all its book production, which benefited the customer by guaranteeing a high-quality book on library shelves.

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History Since 1980

By the early 1980s, William S. Hein & Co., Inc. had entrenched itself not only in the North American market, but had also expanded into the markets of Australia, Japan, Western Europe, South America, and Israel as well. With the acquisition of the Dennis Company in 1983, Hein became the world’s largest distributor of legal periodicals in both hardcopy and micro format.

The company continued its successful growth in the 1990s, publishing well-respected titles dealing with U.S. and international treaty research, as well as other valuable collections for the law library community. In 1991, the company debuted its first CD-ROM product, Hein’s U.S. Treaty Index, at the AALS Meeting. The company also expanded into digital imaging, leading the industry in maximizing digital technology to deliver high-quality reprint titles. Hein donated its high-quality images of the Nuremberg Trials to Yale’s Avalon project. By the late 1990s, Bill Hein Jr. realized that in order to continue to be able to provide superior customers service, Hein was in need of a major acquisition. In late 1998, Hein acquired Fred B. Rothman & Co. of Littleton, Colorado. Although Rothman and Hein had been competitors in the law publishing industry for years, this acquisition was beneficial in insuring the continued success of a family-owned law publisher that would deliver a high level of customer service that was quickly disappearing in the industry.

HeinOnline was launched in May 2000 after years of collaborating with the law library community. At its launch, the Law Journal Library was the only library in HeinOnline and contained only 25 law journals. Early institutional subscribers saw the value that online page images brought to the legal research community and encouraged Hein to add content beyond the scope of historical legal periodicals. As a result, Hein expanded its initial goal and HeinOnline now delivers more and more content that is needed by today’s legal researchers. Today, HeinOnline contains more than 40 library modules and subscribers in more than 3,200 locations in over 175 countries enjoy online access to more than 120 million pages of legal research material.

Our focus to deliver the highest quality products and services to the law library profession remains the primary goal at Hein. As we move into the digital age of information delivery, our commitment to our customers remains as strong as ever.

Check out some of our old advertisements for HeinOnline below.

Image is Everything Poster (2004)

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HeinOnline vs Bread Ad (2005)


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HeinOnline Growth Chart (2005)

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