Some of the most challenging questions that archivists and librarians are facing today surround the decisions about how to create and maintain digital research resources. With the rapid transformation of the way that research resources are being made available electronically, traditional questions of acquisition, selection, preservation, access and use of research resources are also transformed.
Making library services available online is not only expensive; it is also very risky. The library's roles there are not at all clear. Neither are its relationships with users or with other information services. There is little information about how library users behave in a network environment, how they react to online library services, and how they combine those services with others such as search engines, bookstores, Internet gateways and instructional technologies. Digital libraries are still relatively immature – most are still at a stage where limited experimentation is more important than well-informed strategic planning. While libraries have excelled at assessing the development and use of their traditional collections and services, comparable assessments of online collections and services are more complicated and less well understood.
The New York Public Library dispenses so much information electronically to readers all over the world that it reports ten million hits on its computer system each month as opposed to 50,000 books from its reading room.