FAST (Faceted Application of Subject Terminology)

FAST (Faceted Application of Subject Terminology) is derived from the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), one of the library domain’s most widely-used subject terminology schemas. The development of FAST has been a collaboration of OCLC Research and the Library of Congress. Work on FAST began in late 1998.

FAST has been developed in large part to attempt to meet the perceived need for a general-use subject terminology scheme which is:

  • simple to learn and apply,
  • faceted-navigation-friendly, and
  • modern in its design.

The broad  purpose of adapting the LCSH with a simplified syntax to create FAST is to retain the very rich vocabulary of LCSH while making the schema easier to understand, control, apply, and use. The schema maintains upward compatibility with LCSH, and any valid set of LC subject headings can be converted to FAST headings.

After full development, FAST has evolved into an eight-facet vocabulary with a universe of approximately 1.7 million headings across all facets. The facets are designed to be used in tandem, but each may also be used independently. The rules of application are very simple.


With a rapid growth of accessible information, there was a need for a simplified indexing schema which could be assigned and used by non-professional cataloger or indexers.

The origin of FAST can be traced to observations by OCLC Research staff involved with the OCLC Cooperative Online Resource Catalog (CORC) project, which focused on the cataloging of Web resources. CORC participants typically wanted to be able to adopt simple, low-cost, low-effort approaches to describing Web resources (e.g., using Dublin Core). In the course of the CORC project, it became clear that a significant barrier to minimal-effort resource description was the lack of an easy-to-learn and -apply general subject vocabulary.

Additionally, work during the same time period by the Subcommittee on Metadata and Subject Analysis of the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services’ Subject Access Committee identified specific functional requirements of subject data in the metadata record (ALCTS 1999), and these requirements mapped well to the intended outcomes of what would become the FAST project.


A family of eight modular, complementary vocabularies designed to support faceted retrieval, FAST represents a well-designed, professionally-stewarded controlled vocabulary set that carries a modest initial training burden and operational overhead comparable to keyword indexing. This combination of attributes along with a design and implementation which make FAST well-suited for linked data applications provide a viable and far superior alternative to key word indexing or other uncontrolled approaches.

FAST is used by the National Library of  New Zealand and RMIT to enrich article metadata, by Databib to index descriptions of databases, and by a variety of libraries to provide subject indexing of description of digital resources.


In developing FAST, The primary objectives were (1) compatibility with existing metadata, (2) ease of assignment, (3) retrieval effectiveness, (4) cost of maintenance, and (5) semantic interoperability.  The development team determined that these objectives could best be satisfied by a fully enumerative faceted subject heading schema derived from the Library of Congress Subject Headings.

The individual terms in the FAST vocabulary are divided into eight distinct categories or facets:  Personal names, Corporate names, Geographic names, Events, Titles, Time periods, Topics, and Form/Genre.  

As a fully enumerative system, all subject headings are established with authority records eliminating the need to synthesize headings along with the complex set of syntax rules. 

The FAST authority file contains over 1,700,000 authority records. 


Released in November 2011, a redesigned user interface, available at simplifies the process of heading selection, in a design that combines search box, brief results list, and full view of a selected record on a single page. Several indexes and the ability to restrict the result to a desired FAST facet increase searching accuracy. The default result ranking is by usage, giving the most likely candidate heading near the top of the result, although alphabetic and facet order options are easily available. An autosuggest makes the selection process even easier.


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

FAST as Linked Data

FAST is available as Linked Data, which is an approach to publishing data which enhances the utility of information on the web by making references to persons, places, things, etc. more consistent and linkable across domains. FAST Linked Data is available at, and is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution Licence. It is also available for download under this license at



An ALCTS e-Forum held on 11 December 2013 explored the the possible uses of FAST for Cataloging and Discovery and how it could be implemented in libraries. FAST team members were available to discuss and answer questions about FAST.


  • Chan, Lois Mai, Eric Childress, Rebecca J. Dean, Edward T. O'Neill, and Diane Vizine-Goetz. 2001. "A faceted approach to subject data in the Dublin Core metadata record". Journal of Internet Cataloging. 4 (1/2).
  • Dean, Rebecca. 2003. "FAST: Development of Simplified Headings for Metadata." Paper presented at Authority Control: Definition and International Experiences conference, 10-12 February 2003, Florence (Italy)
    • English version: Word (.doc: 113K/17pp.); Acrobat (.pdf: 211K/15pp.)
    • Italian version: Word (.doc: 148K/16pp.); Acrobat (.pdf: 356K/16pp.)


Eric Childress and Edward T. O'Neill
FAST Report
(.pptx: 3.9MB/14 slides)
ALA 2013 Annual Conference, 27 June-2 July 2013, Chicago, Illinois (USA)

Eric Childress
FAST (Faceted Application of Subject Terminology): A Vocabulary to Facilitate Faceted Browsing
(.ppt: 7.5MB/35 slides)
School of Information Studies/ University of Ottawa = École des sciences de l'information Université d'Ottawa, 11 March 2010, Ottawa, Ontario (Canada)

Shannon Hoffman (Brigham Young University)
Looking Deeper into Using FAST: Report on three projects using the FAST Authority File
(.ppt:97K/13 slides)
ALA Annual Conference, 24 June 2006, New Orleans, Louisiana (USA)

Arlene G. Taylor (Pittsburgh)
Comparison of Keyword Searching Using FAST vs. Using LCSH
(.ppt:103K/39 slides)
ALA Annual Conference, 24 June 2006, New Orleans, Louisiana (USA)

Ed O’Neill and Lois Mai Chan (Kentucky)
FAST (Faceted Application of Subject Terminology): a simplified LCSH-based vocabulary.  69th IFLA General Conference and Council, August 1, 2003, Berlin, Germany.  (Translations available in French, German, and Russian)

Ed O'Neill and Lois Mai Chan (Kentucky)
FAST: A Faceted LCSH-Based Subject Vocabulary
(.ppt:2.0MB/35 slides)
ALA Annual Conference, 24 June 2006, New Orleans, Louisiana (USA)

Ed O'Neill and Lois Mai Chan (Kentucky)
LITA/ACIG Presentation at ALA Annual 2004
(.ppt:499K/31 slides)
27 June 2004, Orlando, Florida (USA)

Edward T. O'Neill
ASIST Presentation
(.ppt:773K/17 slides)
21 November 2002, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA)

Ed O'Neill
Joint Conference on Digital Libraries Presentation
(.ppt:9.1MB/29 slides)
28 June 2001, Roanoke, Virginia (USA)

Related Projects

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Diane Vizine-Goetz

Team Members

Rick Bennett

Eric Childress

Kerre Kammerer

Former Team Members

Edward T. O'Neill

Jeff Mixter

Lois Mai Chan (University of Kentucky)

Chris Stanton

Kay Clopton

Rebecca Dean