The dynamics of knowledge management and the demand for qualitative service delivery in the information-architecture by library employers in recent history has placed a growing demand for library and information science educators to have a service rethink toward closing in the gap that exists between theory and practice in librarianship. With the changing need of employers and the proliferation of related courses and programmes to librarianship, many changes have taken place in the field of librarianship (Okello-Obura and Kigongo-Bukenya, 2011). These changes have created a conflict of interest between library employers and library educators on best practices. Library employers want to hire librarians who can do the tasks needed by their particular institution, while LIS educators hope to cover theory and leave the training in particular tasks to the future employer (Bird and Crumpton, 2014). Graduate library students are not left out in this. They need to be exposed to the changing trends constantly occurring in librarianship. This onerous task can be achieved through the graduate internship programme.
Graduate students library internship programme otherwise known as industrial training (IT) simply refers to the process of training graduate students to enable them acquire more advanced practical skills in various sections of any given library under the guidance of an experienced supervisor in other to create the link that exists between theory and practice in librarianship. According to Rahman, Kahtun and Mezbah-ul-Islam (2008) an internship is a pre-professional work experience that provides students and recent graduates with the opportunity to gain experience in a particular career field. LIS Internships allow students in the master's and specialist degree programs to work in real world settings, guided by knowledgeable, experienced, and successful supervisors (Chambers, 2015).
Practical skills development is one of the bedrocks of any given profession and it is a sine qua none to the continuous survival and growth of any profession including LIS profession. Practical skills development in Library and Information Science is related to performing high powered tasks in other to master the arts and craft of the diverse areas of librarianship and information science. According to Ochiagha (1995) practical knowledge is learning without which mastery of an area of knowledge may be too difficult to achieve. Practical knowledge involves developing skills through the use of tools or equipment to perform tasks that are related to a field of study (Ugwuanyi and Ezema, 2010). Through the internship programme, graduate students are exposed to their relevant occupational areas in real library work situation. During the programme, graduate students are expected to have good understanding between theory and practice and develop good work habits and make informed choices of the various sections/divisions of the library when given the opportunity in the future. According to Oyedele (1995) that during the training programme the student learn to assume responsibilities, develop the knowledge and attitudes required for successful job performances, cultivate good work habits and explore the fields in which their career interests lies in other to determine their suitability. The library internship programme is generally skill oriented and requires the graduate students to acquire the required skill in the appropriate library environment. In other to effectively acquire the skills, training must occur in the appropriate environment (Chambers 2015).
The graduate internship or IT programme is an essential component for the successful completion of the postgraduate programme. According to Chambers (2015) those courses which form the core requirement for the Masters Degree should have been completed by the student at least 18 graduate hours prior to entering an internship leading toward the award of either the MLS or the MIS. She further reiterated that students may be expected to have completed several specific courses relevant to the internship prior to beginning their duties. This is because students during the programme are given the opportunity to analyze and make sound judgement about theory and practice which they have learnt within the four walls of learning. Fallows and Steven (2000) opined that fresh graduate students are immediately required to perform well with sufficient knowledge and background by the employer, hence, by having the industrial training it is one of the options to equip them with such experiences.
The library and information science postgraduate students' internship programme in Nigeria need to be critically re-examined and appraised in the light of its impact on practical skill development in meeting global best practices in LIS Education. The programme is greatly bedevilled in the last two decades especially with the advent and application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the core functions of librarianship and information science. There is often a constant struggle between library employers and the library schools in bridging the gap between theory and actual practice. Most library schools at the postgraduate level in Nigeria lack the necessary learning equipment and facilities that is required for postgraduate students to acquire practical skills in meeting today's world of work while library employers insist on employing graduates that will be conversant with the changing world of work driven by technology. This situation according to Manley (2012) has revived the debate again as there is pressure to degrade the value of the master's degree both by employers hiring paraprofessionals to perform technology related duties and recruiting those with more advanced degrees to be subject specialists in university collections as posited by Trzeciak, MacLachlan, & Shenker (2011). Thus, the need to examine the relevance of the LIS postgraduate internship programme in acquiring practical skills and the challenges it posses to LIS education in general becomes pertinent. Also there is death of literature on this subject most recently in Nigeria. In light of the above, a study of this nature becomes invaluable using the University of Calabar and Delta State University experience.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The graduate library internship is initially designed to resolve the problem of how best to build a closer and more appropriate connection between theory and practice in librarianship. But has the programme actually help the intern, participating library and the library schools in realizing its initial objectives? What benefits do graduate interns derived from participating on the programme in Library and information science, what are the challenges they encountered during the programme and what ways can be adopted to improve on their practical skill development in Library and Information Science education? The current research is motivated to provide answers to the above puzzling questions using the Delta University Library and University of Calabar library experience in Nigeria.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The main objective is to find out the impact of internship experience on postgraduate students in achieving practical skill development in LIS education...