FEBRUARY 24, 1997

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Bothell, Woodinville libraries testing Internet filters to protect children

Internet filters by Jeff Switzer, senior staff reporter
Two local libraries are testing four different Internet filter programs, evaluating the finer points of making Internet access more kid-friendly before the programs are implemented system-wide.
   Bothell Regional and Woodinville Libraries have already installed "Bess" and are using the Internet Explorer security option. Starting this week, X-Stop and CyberPatrol are expected to be added and evaluated. Internet access in other areas remains unfiltered, reflecting the library system's policy and philosophy of free and open access.
   Internet Explorer rejects access to sites not certified by Microsoft, rejecting the majority of sites requested. "Bess" connects the system to a proxy server in Ohio which has a list of blocked sites maintained by that service. When a disallowed site is requested, a picture of "Bess," a Chesapeake Bay Retriever from Seattle, comes up with the message, "Sorry, Bess can't retrieve."
   CyberPatrol and X-Stop are software options which are updated as the list of objectionable sites grows and changes. CyberPatrol uses a CyberNot list, which is also updated.
   Don Julien, manager of Woodinville Library, said that while parents are involved with their children in the library, they also often drop them in the children's area, recognizing that the majority of the materials displayed and shelved there are for children. "These filters are a reassurance to parents that this is an area expected to be kid-friendly," Julien said.
   Woodinville Library has two Internet computers in its children's area with labels identifying the filters being tested, in addition to default settings to the KCLS Kids Homepage. Staff noted that demand is high for access to the eight Internet terminals, but by having kid-specific terminals, children have a better opportunity to web browse without being crowded off by adults.
   According to library system staff, Woodinville and Bothell Libraries were chosen because they are "Wave" libraries, with wiring and computer resources other branches don't have. The libraries will be evaluating the benefits of each program, including the costs of software updates, staff time and training, and the potential for lag-time for the Ohio server.
   Bothell Regional has temporarily added two Internet terminals to test the filters, bringing their total to six. Library said that following the filter testing, it is very likely an additional web terminal would be placed in the children's area there.
   Staff and public comments will be compiled after the process, and the decision of what to do next will follow. It is reported that the library board wishes to move quickly on the issue.
   "Children's areas have books selected specifically for kids, but they can still use other areas in the library," said Jeanne Thorsen, KCLS spokesperson, likening the World Wide Web access to the reading and interest level of children in printed materials. "There are a lot of ideas and concepts in libraries, and we continue to encourage parents to be involved with their children in the library."