APRIL 7, 1997

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'Bess' selected as Internet filter for children at libraries

Internet filter by Andrew Walgamott
King County Libraries negotiated a contract last week with Seattle-based N2H2 for their Internet filter service "Bess," which they will use on computers in the children's section of county libraries.
   "We are striving to put one filtered access point in the children's area of every King County Library," said Barbara Archbold, associate director of Public Services for the King County Library System (KCLS). "We will be implementing the system in 15 libraries. Woodinville and Bothell will be the first," she said. Bess has been tested in both the Woodinville and Bothell libraries in a trial version for the past month.
   "I think Bess is working out well in our children's area," said Don Julien, manager of the Woodinville Library, which has eight access sites, two of which are in the children's section. "Any request for accessing a site goes through the Bess site first. If the site is inappropriate, Bess returns a fairly friendly message saying that the site can't be accessed. We had a concern the Bess site would be overtaxed, but there was no time lag with it. It doesn't use a blanket key-word approach and allows access to sites that are fairly innocuous."
   While adding the filter is meant to offer an alternative, Julien says there's no replacing parental involvement and guidance.
   Bothell has four dedicated Internet computers in the middle of the library in a high traffic area.
   "We tested four filters here and Woodinville tested four," said Ruth Bacharach, manager of the Bothell Regional Library. "We agreed Bess was the best filter. Some filters are too sensitive and some filter far more sites than are appropriate," she added.
   "We developed Bess when parents at my children's school asked what could be done to block access to objectional sites," said Peter Nickerson, Ph.D., president and CEO of N2H2 and an economics professor at Seattle U. He said that Internet sites are analyzed every day by N2H2 and updates are made to the blocked list. When a site is requested and blocked, a photo of Nickerson's Chesapeake Retriever, Bess, appears on the screen and suggests you go elsewhere, such as "bess.net."
   "We love the dog and the system is really user-friendly. It will be easy for our patrons to use, and it works well with our purposes," said Archbold.
   Consistent with their policy on open access, Internet access will remain unfiltered in the other sections of King County Libraries.
   For more information on N2H2, go to http://www.n2h2.com or to http://www.bess.net.