Answered By: Andrea Jakubas
Last Updated: Mar 13, 2018     Views: 37

DISCLAIMER: The following information is neither legal advice nor a definitive list of statutes or regulations potentially applicable to your research. Most statutes and regulations are freely available to read online, but can be confusing to interpret or to know which are applicable to your situation. Consider consulting a lawyer depending on your need.  Librarians cannot provide legal advice.


“Statutes,” or “enacted legislation,” are laws formed and passed by the state or federal legislature (aka “Congress”).

Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute provides a useful compilation of state-by-state statutes and other legal regulations. In Illinois, the state legislature makes its statutes available in the Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) database. Historical Illinois statutes can be found via the Laws of Illinois free database from Western Illinois University.

At the Chicago level, there are the Municipal, Building and Zoning Codes. These codes compile the subject-based legislation that applies to topics such as landlord-tenant relationships and fire safety requirements. For historic versions, see the Chicago Public Library’s blog post on the subject for advice.

A federal (or national-level) law might also be applicable to you. Check the U.S. Code for currently-enforceable federal statutes. Historic versions of the U.S. Code are available via the U.S. Government Publishing Office site back to 1994. For versions older than 1994, try locating a Federal depository library near you and inquire whether they have older print versions available.

A note about copyright

Many patrons have questions about re-using material that may be protected by copyright. Items in the “public domain” can freely be used, while others might have restrictions. We cannot advise you on whether your suggested use is a violation of copyright, but the Fair Use Evaluator might help you determine whether your suggested use of the item is permissible under the Fair Use principle. Also consult the Creative Commons site for resources and information about finding, using, adapting, and sharing items with a Creative Commons license.


Regulations are laws issued by government agencies, rather than the legislature. You can find Illinois agency regulations and federal regulations (via the “Code of Federal Regulations”) online. In addition to the Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal Register website has unofficial texts of the federal regulations back to 1994. If you are interested in a pending federal regulation, check

The Chicago Association of Law Libraries explains that older versions of Illinois agency regulations may be difficult to find and suggests contacting the relevant agency directly. Older versions of the Code of Federal Regulations are available on the Government Publishing Office site for years starting at 1996. For versions older than 1996, try locating a Federal depository library near you and inquire whether they have older print versions available.

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