In a small but joyful ceremony at the Oak Bluffs library Monday night, eight adult students graduated from a free, 10-week beginner English class. The celebration marked a first for both the graduates and for the library, which was able to offer the course through newly obtained grant funding.

Reference librarian and program founder Nina Ferry thanked the inaugural class with the help of interpreter Akia Sharp Barbosa.

“Being an adult learner is not easy. You need to juggle your work schedule and your family schedule. You need to take risks in front of other adults. You need to be committed to learning for 90 minutes after an already long day,” she said. “I applaud each of you for both joining our class and continuing to attend even as the busy spring months have come upon us.”

The class began in March, and met two evenings per week for 90-minute sessions. Course instructor Amy Westburg is a special education language arts teacher at the West Tisbury School. She said the library course was meant for people who are just beginning to learn English, but students gained skills beyond the language basics.

“I noticed improvements in taking risks and confidence,” she said between greetings with students. “And the community that was built within the class, meeting other people who have the same interests, the same needs.”

Polly Wilson is a bilingual teacher who moved to the Island from Brazil a couple of years ago and helped develop the Oak Bluffs library course curriculum. She said there are multiple challenges when learning English on the Island.

“[One is] time management for studying, because you have so many other things going on in life,” she said. “You’re worrying about work, kids, home. And though you are in a country that expects English, you also have a community that speaks Portuguese on the Island.”

Regular nighttime English classes are also offered through the Martha’s Vineyard Adult Learning Program at the regional high school, but the wait list for the courses generally tops 100.

In Island elementary schools and at the regional high school, enrollment in English learning classes has increased dramatically over the last decade, prompting schools to hire new staff. Ms. Ferry said she has seen and studied library-based learning programs in other places, and she’s optimistic about supplementing what is already available for adult learners.

“We’re clearly not filling a community need, and the public library is the perfect forum for it,” Ms. Ferry said. “Since I’d seen these programs off-Island, and they were successful after many, many years of being built up, I just hoped that we could bring something here.”

The course was part of a broader initiative at the Oak Bluffs library to expand services to include people seeking citizenship and English language acquisition. Other programs include an informal weekly English conversation circle and two-hour weekend sessions with a bilingual interpreter, Edil Barbosa, Jr, who can help Brazilian Portuguese speakers translate documents and also translates library fliers and informational materials. The library has also hosted an expert from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to discuss the citizenship process.

The project is funded through a two-year $15,000 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library services and through support from library friends of Oak Bluffs.

On Monday night, Ms. Ferry said each graduate’s name and handed them their certificate, and the small crowd applauded and spouses took photos on their cell phones.

Graduates stayed after the ceremony to share a potluck meal with their teachers and families. As part of a separate ongoing art exhibition, huge colorful handmade quilts lined the walls of the library programming room, a fitting reminder of the potential when disparate parts are connected.

The next English learning class will begin in September with 10 new students. There are already 15 people on the waiting list. Those interested in the class can email Nina Ferry at