(Delmarvanow.com) -- Visitors to the Corner Bakery, farmers market or other downtown Onancock spots have likely noticed what looks like an outsized birdhouse this summer.
The wooden box is Accomack County's second Little Free Library, a take-a-book, leave-a-book exchange for the public.
“I have always loved the power of books and reading,” said Kathy Carmody, who launched the project earlier this summer.
“I feel a real connection to the Shore and this was just one small way of contributing,” she said.
Though it is Carmody’s brainchild, the Little Free Library on the corner of Market and Ames streets is far from the only one of its kind.
A nonprofit group, Little Free Library aims to inspire a love of reading, build community ties and foster creativity around the globe.
It began in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin, when Todd Bol built a model of a one-room schoolhouse to hold books in his front yard as a tribute to his mother, a schoolteacher.
His friends and neighbors liked the project so much, Bol built several more to give away.
Together with Rick Brooks, of University of Wisconsin-Madison, he continued the project and helped more than 2,000 Little Free Libraries open by 2014.
Today, more than 50,000 of the free book exchanges are registered across the United States and more than 70 other countries.
Moving from Richmond to Onancock’s outskirts in 2009, Carmody wanted to give back to the place she calls home.
But starting a free book exchange was far from simple.
Carmody approached the Friends of the Eastern Shore Public Library first to ensure the book project wouldn’t dilute the nonprofit’s efforts.
Next, she worked with the Onancock Town Council to create a plan for funding the library—Carmody backed the project herself— and choose a site.
The spot at the corner of Market and Ames streets maximizes access to the books, she said.
“If you are someone who lives in town in an apartment maybe, or have given up your driver’s license, people will often take you to the grocery store or doctor’s appointments,” Carmody said, “but it’s kind of hard to ask… to go to the library.”
“This way, folks who are in town can just stop and see what’s new,” she said.
Belle Haven resident Andy Nunnally helped design the casing for the books — a waterproof container with a copper roof, cedar shingles and a dock cleat that lends a “Shore feel” to the project, Carmody said.
The two installed the casing across the street from the Onancock Post Office on Memorial Day afternoon.
Part of Carmody’s agreement with the town is that she will act as steward of the Little Free Library for at least three years, visiting several times a week to check inventory and stamp new books with the “Little Free Library” system marker so no one can resell them.
“So far, we’ve had pretty good traction,” she said of the project. “We’ve had kids books as well as adults, fiction and non-fiction (donated)."
Though the general rule is “take one, leave one,” visitors are welcome to borrow books without leaving one in exchange.
“If you want to donate, great, and if you don’t, that’s fine, too,” Carmody said.
She’s even brainstorming a second Little Free Library on the Eastern Shore, with a location to be determined.
There are other Little Free Libraries on Chincoteague and in Cape Charles, too.
Click HERE to learn more about the Little Free Library organization and its history and projects.