Good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining us here at the National Library of Australia. As we read this year's Alia National simultaneous story Time book, The National Library of Australia would like to acknowledge Australia's First Nations peoples. The First Australians, as the traditional owners and custodians on the land on which we meet, work and read today we offer our respects to their elders, past and present and through them to all Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here in Canberra and across the country.

Wherever you're watching, this year's Alia National Simultaneous story Time book is The Speedy Sleuth by Rebecca Young and Heath McKenzie. It's all about a sleuth who just defies the odds to be the fastest sloth ever known. But national simultaneous story time is all about doing things together and reading together. So let's jump in and let's read the speedy sloth, the speedy sloth written by Rebecca Young and illustrated by Keith Mackenzie, published by Scholastic Australia 2002.

It was finally time for the event of the year. Spike couldn't believe it. The Great Race was here. The other sloth said it couldn't be done. But Spike didn't care. She was ready to run. See, Spike likes to think that hard work pays. So she'd been to the gym for the last seven days. She checked her laces and prepared to soar.

Her mum wished her luck as she ran out the door. Be back for dinner. You better be ready. I'm cooking your favourite. She called out spaghetti. The others looked fit. The others looked quicker. They looked at the slot and tried not to snicker. The races lined up. Then the starting hormone blue spike took off fast. Her very feet flew.

She bolted like lightning. She practically soared. There was no sloth who'd ever run faster before. She sprinted so fast she was all but a blur of speed and technique and sweaty sloth. Her snail overtook her. But that guy was a beast as fast as a race, car or pushbike. At least, in fact, Spike was trailing a loris, a grub, a hair and a tortoise and a mischievous cub, a moonwalking meerkat, a chimp who loved flipping a burrowing mole and a giraffe prone to tripping.

An old armadillo, a daydreaming cougar and an elephant riding a broken down scooter. All that remained was Peter, the cheetah who bolted ahead, shouting, I beat you. Spike was exhausted, she had to admit, but she'd come so far there was no way she'd quit. It was there. She could see it. A fallen down sign. She grinned and leapt over the finishing line.

The other sloths gasped. They reeled back, unsteady. Look there, It's Spike. She's back already? Yes. Spike was slow, but for a slot, she was fast. And yes, it is true that this sloth came last. But Spike didn't care. She was a winner. And she'd made it back home in time for her dinner. And that was the speedy sloth written by Rebecca HUME and illustrated by Heath McKenzie, published by Scholastic Australia 2020 to the National Library of Australia is not just about books.

We do have about 3 million books in our collection. But if you took everything that we hold here at the National Library of Australia, it would be closer to about 10 million items. Those items cover a whole range of different topics, including sport. The job of the National Library of Australia is to collect things that tell a story about Australians, our culture and the things that we like to do.

And Australians are pretty sporty. We're into a whole range of different things football, cricket, soccer, running. And Australia has competed at every Olympic Games in the modern times. Today we're going to be having a look at two very, very special items that we're very lucky to have here at the National Library of Australia. So let's go have a look.

Well, after reading this year's National Simultaneous Storytime Book, The Speedy Sloth, I thought it might have been a good idea to check out some of the other sport related items that we have here at the National Library of Australia. I'm here in our exhibition store room and staging area where our exhibitions team are very hard at work, getting ready to install a new exhibition, all about Australia and Australians taking part in competing in various sporting activities.

I'm here with Karen, who is one of our curators and who is helping to put the exhibition together. Karen We have some very special items right here in front of us. I'm hoping that you're able to tell me and those people watching what we're looking at here.

First, we have here the torch of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, which was used to carry the flame from Olympia down to Darwin and then Cairns and down through the east and sort of coastal area down to Melbourne. There were 110 torches made and they were re-used. So you could just pop a new canister in here to raise it for the next person.

It's, it's quite shiny, but it's a little bit dull. What is it made out of?

It's made out of metal.

Metal. Full metal. Yes. So is it heavy?

A little bit.

It's a little bit. Okay. Maybe it might have been a little bit difficult to run with this torch for a long time, maybe.

Yeah, They had to run for about a mile or 1.6 kilometres.

Wow. So what have we got here, then?

Over here we have the Sydney Olympic torch used to carry the flame also from Olympia. But when the flame came to Australia, it came via Oceania. So it went via places like Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand before it came to Australia.

Wow. It is. It is quite a bit bigger. Yes. And one is it is heavy.

No, it isn't. It's much lighter. So I think there's a bit of plastic in this one.

Maybe. Maybe. But it certainly looks cool. Is there anything special about the design of this?

Yes, it is made with three elements of Australia in mind. So the curved nature of the boomerang and the Sydney Opera House, as well as taking inspiration from the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Right. That's very, very cool. And did this one have some kind of power or fuel? How did the flame stay alight?

There are three layers to the actual torch, so inside the first part is the canister and also the flame, sort of, I don't know what you call it to make it the.


That the burner.


Out, the bit where the flame comes out. The second element is where the fuel actually would be stored and then each person would be given a new torch.


So there were about 13,400 runners in Australia.


Yes. So 14,000 of these torches were made.

Wow. And we're lucky enough to have just one of them.

Just one of.

Them. Wow. That's so very cool. How did the library come to have the Olympic torches here or some of the Olympic torches?

Well, the Sydney 2000 Olympic torch came through in a special collecting project that we had about collecting around the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. So the 1956 Olympic torch was acquired at auction in 2008. Wow. Because the library wanted to complement its collection of 1956 memorabilia and photographs. And it's very important for the library to be able to collect anything and everything that demonstrates Australian history and society and be able to make it public.

Yeah, that's a big part of what we do here, is to collect that stuff, to preserve it and help people all over the country kind of access it and see it. And so that's why these two items, the Sydney Olympic torch and the Melbourne Olympic torch are going in the new exhibition. Yes. Which is opening shortly. So people can come in, can actually see, maybe not hold them, but can definitely see.

Well, thank you very much, Karen. These are two very, very cool objects that, you know, I didn't know that the library had until quite recently. So it's very nice to actually be able to come down here and see them. And you can see Karen and I both have our blue gloves on, these like blue rubber gloves. And these are very important when we're handling objects like this to make sure that we don't damage them or get them dirty with our hands, even though they are very, very clean.

So thank you again, Karen. Thank you for your time. And thank you, everyone, for watching and goodbye.

Join Aaron from the Library’s Education team as he reads 'The Speedy Sloth' and explores sporting highlights from our collections for National Simultaneous Storytime 2023! 

Written by Rebecca Young and illustrated by Health McKenzie, ‘The Speedy Sloth’ will be read in libraries, schools, pre-schools, childcare centres, family homes, bookshops and more around the country to celebrate the 23rd National Simultaneous Storytime (NSS), held annually by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA).  

See the book being read in AUSLAN (courtesy of ALIA).