Since the 1990s, the availability of online finding aids and digitised surrogates of original records has changed the landscape of archival research. Progress towards the virtual reading room has been uneven and sometimes contentious. Digitisation is portrayed either as the answer for the future of access to archives or conversely as a threat to traditions of rigorous research using primary sources. The roles of the reference function in archives and the reference archivist have changed with the advent of digitisation and Web 2.0 technologies, but how are institutions and archivists responding to these challenges? And how can reference archivists serve the new and old research paradigms simultaneously? This paper discusses the impact of online access to finding aids and archival records on users, archivists and institutions through a review of the literature.