Rapid and explosive developments in the generation and delivery of information in the electronic environment have made it necessary for library professionals to rethink traditional concepts and practices in acquisition and cataloging. Because information packaging is no longer tangible, and resources are no longer contained in specific locations, traditional methods for selection and bibliographical control are becoming increasingly inadequate, particularly for the resources that are available on the Internet.
Because information resources are now "accessed" rather than "acquired" and "owned," the very notions of "selection" and "collection development" have taken on different meanings. Furthermore, the concept of "location," in particular, is undergoing fundamental changes, because electronic information is distributed rather than centralized. In the search for viable methods in the handling of electronic information, traditional cataloging concerns must be reconsidered. An important issue in the ongoing re-examination is the relevance and the applicability of traditional concepts and practices to the digital environment. Such concepts include the principles of collocation and differentiation, and the practices include object identification, coding, and subject access. Also pertinent is the relationship of various mechanisms for accessing electronic resources and library catalogs. A further consideration is the relationship between electronic resources and whatever print counterparts exit. These relationships must be clearly understood, defined, and delineated if access to remote electronic resources is to be integrated with other access provisions in exiting library catalogs and if necessary user services connected with those resources are to be provided.
Library professionals have already made advances in the field of selection and bibliographic control of electronic resources. At the same time, the digital environment itself is evolving at a rapid pace. Thus, devising effective and efficient means for handling electronic information is an ongoing process, and the end is nowhere in sight. At this midpoint of the decade, between the time when the Internet and the World Wide Web took off at the beginning of the decade and the looming new millennium, it is perhaps an opportune moment to pause and ponder where we have been and where we are heading by reviewing some of the advancements made thus far. This collection of essays on various aspects of the topic reports on several recent efforts and reflects some of the best thinking at this particular point in time.
Lois Mai Chan
University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY