Practicums and internships are both designed to provide the student with the practical knowledge required for a career in the field of librarianship (and any other professional realm). From this point of view they are the same. The real difference between them is the fact that practicums are courses and internships are temporary jobs. In both cases, students are expected to do their best to learn as much as possible in as many areas of librarianship as possible. In both cases, students have the opportunity to do exactly that, since these programs are designed to give them this opportunity. I don’t doubt that students would do their best in both cases. However, I do expect a difference in performance based solely on subconscious factors.
Allow me to simplify the above notion. The students know that their performance will affect the future. Practicum performance receives a grade, since practicums are courses and internship performance is reported to the school. Also, the students’ over all performance may travel far in the real world and open or close doors, since practicums and internships take place in libraries. However, the students may have a different subconscious approach towards each of the two situations. It is the same approach that people may have when they work as volunteers versus when they get paid to work. In a world that is based on money and property acquisitions and with a lot of people struggling to survive, the internship may be automatically perceived at the subconscious level as more important than the practicum. This means that paid work may be perceived as more important than graded work. The latter does not imply that students are not aware of the need to perform more than adequately in practicums, in order to get a good grade and market themselves. On the contrary, they know it! Subconsciously they may be misguided to be less focused and less professionals because they don’t get a salary.
It would be interesting to have the same student in two parallel realities, one in a practicum situation and one in an internship situation. Although I believe in parallel realities, I don’t have the means to test any other except from my own. I do, however, believe that practicums should be replaced with more internships, in a collaborative effort between library schools and libraries. Two are the reasons for my belief and suggestion. I have already discussed the first reason. The second reason is that practicums take the place of another useful course in the library program. Internship is a job opportunity where students can show their skills, learn, market themselves, and get paid. This is the complete package for the rookie.