Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

assignFAST: An Autosuggest-Based Tool for FAST Subject Assignment

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

assignFAST: An Autosuggest-Based Tool for FAST Subject Assignment

Article excerpt


Subject assignment is really a three-phase task. The first phase is intellectual--reviewing the material and determining its topic. The second phase is more mechanical--identifying the correct subject heading(s). The final phase is retyping or cutting and pasting the heading(s) into the cataloging interface along with any diacritics, and potentially correcting formatting and subfield coding. If authority control is available in the interface, some of these tasks may be automated or partially automated.

A cataloger with a reasonable knowledge of Faceted Application of Subject Terminology (FAST) (1,2) or even Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) (3) 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 is a web service that consolidates the entire second phase of the manual process of subject assignment for FAST subjects into a single step based on autosuggest technology.


Faceted Application of Subject Terminology (FAST) Subject Headings were derived from the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) with the goal of making the schema easier to understand, control, apply, and use while maintaining the rich vocabulary of the source. The intent was to develop a simplified subject heading schema that could be assigned and used by nonprofessional cataloger or indexers. Faceting makes the task of subject assignment easier. Without the complex rules for combining the separate subdivisions to form an LCSH heading, only the selection of the proper heading is necessary.

The now-familiar autosuggest (4,5) technology is used in web search and other text entry applications to help the user enter data by displaying and allowing the selection of the desired text before typing is complete. This helps with error correction, spelling, and identification of commonly used terminology. Prior discussions of autosuggest functionality in library systems have focused primarily on discovery rather than on cataloging. (6-11)

The literature often uses synonyms for autosuggest, such as autocomplete or type-ahead. Since assignFAST can lead to terms that are not being typed, autosuggest seems most appropriate and will be used here.

The assignFAST web service combines the simplified subject choice capabilities of FAST with the text selection features of autosuggest technology to create an in-interface subject assignment tool. Much of a full featured search interface for the FAST authorities, such as searchFAST, (12) can be integrated into the subject entry field of a cataloging interface. This eliminates the need to switch screens, cut and paste, and make control character changes that may differ between the authority search interface and the cataloging interface. As a web service, assignFAST can be added to existing cataloging interfaces.

In this paper, the actual operation of assignFAST is described, followed by how the assignFAST web service is connected to an interface, and finally by a description of the web service construction.

assignFAST Operation

An authority record contains the Established Heading, See headings, and control numbers that may be used for linking or other future reference. The relevant fields of the FAST record for Motion Pictures are shown here:

Control Number        fst01027285

Established Heading   Motion pictures

See                   Cinema

See                   Feature films--History and criticism

See                   Films

See                   Movies

See                   Moving-pictures

In FAST, the facet of each heading is known. Motion pictures is a topical heading. The See references are unauthorized forms of the established heading. If someone intended to enter Cinema as a subject heading, they would be directed to use the established heading Motion pictures. …

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