I know, in theory, that my little books are out in the world, being read, or waiting shyly on shelves somewhere. I know because once in awhile I get a royalty payment or whathaveyou. The cheques are small (though nonetheless welcome!) so I know that sales are drib-drabby at best.
And I know my books are in libraries because I get a little cheque every year from the Public Lending Right Commission. Payments are based on an annual survey of a handful of libraries across the country; the amount of your payment is based on how many of those libraries have your book in their catalogue. But still, even though I've been cashing those cheques for a couple of years, I didn't ever stop and think: hey, my books are actually IN libraries. Being checked out (hopefully), or thumbed through, or -- gasp -- stolen. And by people I don't know in places I've never been.
Then I heard about worldcat.org, the world's largest library catalogue, and decided to take a look-see for my books. And it kind of blew me away. Both of my books are all over North America, mostly in university libraries. (Including Ivy League ones!) Vs. can be borrowed in Santa Cruz, CA; from the Library of Congress in Washington; Princeton; Harvard; and a whole wodge of Canadian universities. (The Sleeping Life gets even more hits.) Sure, I don't know how often these copies actually circulate, but I'm pretty chuffed at the thought of all places my books get to go, all the people who might be reading it.
So, thanks, libraries, for supporting small press poetry, and offering it up to all of us for free... as long as we return our loans on time...