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At Polk Library, the first scene one might notice are students hunched over study materials, cramming for an exam or organizing a research project. But there are others whose hard work often go unnoticed.

Best friends and co-workers Gustav Heinecke and Mark Gajewski play a big part behind the scenes, but the custodians recently were thrust into the spotlight, when they were awarded Star Awards for the months of December and January.

Both Heinecke and Gajewski were nominated by Barbara Fahey of Polk Library technical services.

“I think they are both very deserving of the Star Award as individuals, but especially as a team,” Fahey said. “They perform above and beyond the expectations of their position and work together to keep Polk Library ready for the students.”

The partners-in-clean take their responsibility seriously.

“We try to give the library people whatever they need when they need it. I think they were just trying to show their appreciation,” said Heinecke of receiving the award.

For 23 years, Heinecke and Gajewski have been working side by side. With the efficiency that comes from more than 54 combined years of experience, these custodians have developed an admirable degree of dedicate to their profession.

“We both take personal pride in what we do,” Gajewski said. “It has become our building — our bathrooms and our carpet. Our work is a reflection of us.”

Gajewski began working as a custodian after the University hired him as a student to do similar work. Gajewski said he took a full-time position to meet the needs of his growing family.

“I had an opportunity to work there, and I didn’t think twice,” Gajewski said. “It’s been a good fit for me.”

Heinecke arrived at Polk Library under different circumstances.

“Being a custodian at Polk wasn’t really my choice, per se,” Heinecke said. “But it turned out that that library is a really nice place to work because the managers are terrific and the workers are terrific as well.”

Despite daily obstacles — including aging equipment and growing responsibilities — both agree they would never choose to leave. Instead, they have found methods to remain both efficient and positive.

“It’s better off to put your energy into finding a solution than condemning the problem,” Heinecke said. “That way, when you find the solution, you’re happy you completed it. If you’re still grumbling at the person who created it, you’re still miserable.”

It is this constructive attitude, combined with hard work, that make Heinecke and Gajewski perfect candidates for the Star Award, which includes a framed certificate, a reserved parking space for a month and a gift from University Books and More.

The award for exceptional performance is presented each month to employees who have worked at least six months at UW Oshkosh. To make a nomination, visit this link: