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Some people come to libraries to check out books, but Tim Maloney comes for the cards.
Maloney, who recently moved from Williamstown to Falmouth, lent the Grant County Library some of his massive collection of library cards for a display in September.
His binder full of cards includes hundreds of library cards from around Kentucky, across the United States and a few from other countries.
“I have cards from over 400 libraries,” Maloney said. “There are considerably more than that though because places like Santa Fe have two cards. Glendale, Calif., sent me 16 different cards. There is over 20 states who have sent cards.”
Maloney has actual borrowing privileges at some libraries using the cards while others are not active.
Most of his collection was obtained by sending e-mails to libraries asking to add to his tally.
While working to get cards from every Kentucky library, Maloney has been going down the list of states alphabetically contacting libraries.
He currently has cards from Alabama through Kentucky, along with Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Ohio, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
However, the collection can sometimes grow daily.
“I get a decent response,” Maloney said. “I don’t expect most of them to go and send me cards. Then, there are some that just don’t have cards. I’ve had some people ask me why. It basically comes down to that it’s something different. Everybody collects coins or stamps.”
When he receives a card in the mail, Maloney said he always writes them a thank-you letter.
Maloney had a library in Illinois send him a stack of library cards they had received for a display one year.
He also has cards from Canada, Scotland and Australia.
His two favorite cards are from Thousand Oaks, Calif. and Westbrook, Conn.
“Westbrook, Conn., is a pretty plain card,” Maloney said. “It’s just white background with blue print. But, I’m a lifetime honorary member. Thousand Oaks, Calif. has me as an esteemed patron. That’s just the way they sent the cards.”
Some of the cards have photographs on them.
Some have with colorful designs while a few are three-dimensional.
As a child, Maloney collecting restaurant menus.
He also collected egg paper weights and he has a sizable number of books.
The library card collection began about five years ago.
“I started collecting them basically because I went to North Carolina and needed to use the library,” Maloney said. “I told them I needed to use the computer and they said I can sign up for a card. When I told them I didn’t live there, they said I didn’t need to. That’s when I went ‘ding.’”
Since he already had cards from Maryland when he lived there and several more from Kentucky, Maloney decided to see how many he could accumulate.
The collection grew to about 50 cards quickly, but when his car was broken into last year, everything, including the cards, were stolen.
Not to be deterred, Maloney decided to get back on the saddle and start contacting libraries again.
Now that the number of cards has amassed into the hundreds, Maloney plans to continue reaching for his ultimate goal.
He hopes to one day receive cards from San Francisco, Tombstone, Ariz. and Anchorage, Alaska.
According to the American Library Association, there are 122,105 libraries in the United States, including 9,225 administrative public libraries.
That’s a lot of e-mails to send.
Once the collection is complete, Maloney already has a vision for what he will do with the library cards.
“I plan on creating a display that says, ‘Libraries: the heart of our communities,’” he said. “Then, I’ll go and send everybody a picture of it.”