It seems to me there are a few different categories of resource when you are studying Buddhism in the west. First is the internet, then there are books, then there are courses and retreats, and last there is finding a living teacher. Only in the last case do you have access to the guidance of another human being, the rest of the time you have to guide yourself.
So the most valuable skill, it seems to me, is learning how to guide yourself in making use of Buddhist resources. My experience over the last five years has been that some resources have been more useful than others, and I have added some brief notes on what made them good.
Internet resources - -
Wikipedia: Wikipedia has some useful articles for orienting yourself on specific things and also general things, although I have to say that as a first point of contact it is not that great, because of the extremely condensed form of some teachings.
Access to Insight: AtI has excellent resources for looking up sutra’s, and also some good articles and introductions. It’s recommended for a quick visit at least, although one should keep in mind the Theravadin slant on things.
YouTube: often surprisingly good as a place to get dhamma talks. If you have a specific teacher you are researching often you will find at least some material here, and quite frequently an entire retreat series. Some Buddhist broadcasters archive material on YouTube, and you can find some good documentaries here if you are lucky enough to understand the language.
Forums: a good way to exchange thoughts with other like-minded buddhists, and it can be a Sangha of sorts. Great sources of more diverse information and viewpoints.
Book repositories: these can yield some really good finds, in terms of books that are out of print or wouldn’t be profitable to print. For example sacred-texts.com, or often the monasteries have archives on their websites. Often you can search for a book title or author as a pdf, and sometimes you will find something. Sometimes you find a gem like Ajahn Chah’s complete dhamma talks as a pdf in English.
Podcasts: a sometimes-useful way to keep in touch with the world. I’ve noted there are some good Buddhist podcasts but I’ve only dabbled in listening to them.
Twitter: I once did a session of adding Buddhist commentators to my list, like the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere. It didn’t have much impact, they seem only to tweet rarely.
Real-life resources - -
Books: due to limited resources I don’t buy many Buddhist books, but Buddhism for Dummies was useful, as was The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. There are many good Buddhist authors out there, and many internet articles to guide you to them.
Courses: I have found in-person courses on Buddhist teachings to be useful. I went to an introductory course at a local Tibetan temple, which was a very good way of learning some of the concepts, and later to an evening course on basic instruction. They tend to be more structured than what you get out of a book.
Retreats: I haven’t yet been on one, for several reasons. But many people find them useful.
Festivals: places like new age festivals can be useful to make new contacts in Buddhism.
Libraries: very useful for getting a good all around view of Buddhist books. They tend to have what has been popular over the last few decades, so it tends to be mainstream and affordable in terms of fees.
Centres and Temples: very good places to connect with other buddhists, monastics and teachers. Often they have a lending library.