A Web service for FAST Subject selection, assignFAST explores automating the manual selection of the Authorized and Use For headings based on autosuggest technology.


Bennet, Rick, Edward T. O'Neill, and Kerre Kammerer. "assignFAST: An Autosuggest-Based Tool for FAST Subject Assignment." Information Technology & Libraries. 33,1: 34-43.


Subject assignment is really a two-phase task. The first phase is intellectual—reviewing the material and selecting the correct heading. The second phase is more mechanical, finding the correct form of the heading, along with any diacritics, cutting and pasting it into the cataloging interface, and potentially correcting formatting and subfield coding. If authority control is available in the interface, some of these tasks may be automated.

A cataloger with a reasonable knowledge of FAST or even LCSH can quickly get to the proper heading, but usually needs to confirm the final details—was it plural? am I thinking of an alternate form? is it inverted? etc. This often requires consulting the full authority file interface. assignFAST consolidates the entire second phase of the manual process of subject assignment into a single step based on autocomplete technology, and adds authority control to an interface that does not have it already.


One goal of FAST is to lower the cost of subject cataloging. The combination of faceting and a completely controlled vocabulary allows heading selection to be integrated with the cataloging interface. assignFAST is expected to enhance the productivity of catalogers familiar with FAST or LCSH, who primarily need to identify the proper form of the the desired heading.


The mechanics of manually confirming the final details of a heading involve changing windows, doing a search, selecting a heading from the brief list, cutting and pasting the result back into the cataloging interface, and correcting any differences between the authority interface format and the cataloging interface format.

assignFAST builds all of this into the autocomplete selection process. Adding a half dozen lines of html to a simple existing browser-based cataloging interface can allow catalogers to do this with a few keystrokes, without changing windows.

A demo is of this is provided at This interface is only a demo, and is intended to show how the feature can be integrated into an existing interface. Three potential cataloging formats are given, a common (non-MARC) format, a Connexion-style format, and a marcbreaker-style format. Other formats could be added by a programmer by following these examples.

assignFAST is based on a Web Service that provides the autocomplete authority file information. The JavaScript needed to access that file and output a few common formats is also provided, along with instructions for connecting assignFAST to an existing interface.

Since this functionality takes up little space, it could also be useful as an OpenSocial gadget. This can be added to the OCLC WorldShare Platform, or other OpenSocial platforms. Three gadget URLs are provided in the example cataloging formats described above. In these cases, the resulting formatted heading is automatically highlighted, ready to be cut and pasted.

assignFAST takes advantage of the features of FAST. Faceting, along with a fully controlled vocabulary, allows simple selection and authority control to take place that would be hard to accomplish in LCSH.




Use of our prototypes is subject to OCLC's terms and conditions. By continuing past this point, you agree to abide by these terms.

Try the online demo

Start typing the desired heading, and both the Authorized and Use For headings are shown to the user. After sufficient typing to identify the desired heading, selecting that heading replaces the typing with the authorized heading, including proper punctuation, spelling, diacritics, and FAST number.


Rick Bennett

Team Members

JD Shipengrover (UI)

Ed O'Neill (sponsor)

Kerre Kammerer

Topics: FAST, Structure for Controlled Data

Web Service

The assignFAST autocomplete is available as a Web Service, along with javascript to demonstrate the implementation of the technology.