Over millennia librarians have striven for universality: complete control of all recorded knowledge, if not through ownership then through bibliographic organisation and systems for universal availability and access. Modern digital
technologies offer new possibilities of achieving universality, but also presents big challenges. This paper raises some critical questions about the concepts of “digital libraries” and “archiving knowledge”. It uses a basic life-cycle approach to digital libraries and considers digital library functions within the cycle of the creation, dissemination, disposal and use of
born-digital and digitised content. Different types of digital libraries are identified and challenges in selection, acquisition, organisation, preservation, resource discovery and access are discussed. Technological factors are not the main issue to be addressed. Rather, it is emphasised that political and economic challenges require attention. A rational and holistic discipline of digital resources management is needed to ensure that digital content can be handed down to posterity.