Children, young people and families will be given automatic library membership under a pilot scheme aiming to increase their use.

Barnet Council is one of 22 local authorities across the UK to be handed £2,000 by Arts Council England, which is looking to boost library use across the country.

Barnet’s inclusion comes eight months after the authority shut down Friern Barnet Library despite mass protests by the community, and more recently pulled out of a joint project to create a new library at the artsdepot in North Finchley.

The authority says it will be working with primary and secondary schools to give out free memberships to children starting their first term.

The intiative includes promotions in nurseries and schools and combined library and leisure cards.

Councillor Robert Rams, libraries portfolio holder, said: "Boosting adult and child literacy is one of the main planks of our library policy and this initiative will allow us to do this. 

“Developing a love of reading from an early age is a fantastic way for children to boost their vocabulary, knowledge and curiosity.”

Friern Barnet Library was shut down in April in a bid to save the council annual running costs. It is looking to sell the building, in Friern Barnet Road, but is awaiting a county court ruling on whether a group of squatters occupying the property can legally be ejected.

The council pulled out of the artsdepot project in October following a row with the centre’s directors over how much money the authority would invest.