It's the holiday season -- words guaranteed to send tremors through even the most organized planners on the planet. But with the library's help, things might be just a bit simpler and fun, so sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself with these ideas guaranteed to make the season a treat. Best of all, it won't cost you a thing! Get the details at the library website, www.ccclib.org.

Programs and Events: Libraries throughout Contra Costa County will be hosting holiday programs for all age levels, including a winter music concert in Orinda and a holiday sing-a-long in San Ramon.

Brentwood will host a holiday Dance Around the World program and a teen Do It Yourself Craft program, while Oakley hosts a "Sing Your Way Home With Dale" family music program. A full calendar of library programs can be found at http://ccclib.org/programs.

Holiday Music: Set the mood in your home with music that celebrates the season. Handel's Messiah has been recorded hundreds of times and the library owns several versions

There's also "An Appalachian Christmas," "A Farmhouse Christmas," Susan Boyle's "The Gift," Yo-Yo Ma's "Songs of Joy & Peace," and Dave Koz's "A Smooth Jazz Christmas." (What other kind of Christmas could there be with Dave Koz?) Children can also enjoy "Chipmunks Christmas" and "Disney Channel Holiday Playlist."

Stories on CD: Short stories, essays and radio drama are available through the library. As an NPR junkie, I've loved listening to Bailey White's holiday stories that are broadcast this time of year. I just discovered that the library owns her collection "Nothing With Strings: NPR's Beloved Holiday Stories." Who knew?

Another terrific story to share with a group is David Sedaris' Santaland Diaries on CD, available in the "Holidays on Ice" collection. His impression of Billie Holiday singing "Away in a Manger" is one of the funnies things I've ever heard.

Movies and TV Shows: Place a hold now on some of your favorite holiday movies, or just family favorites that you don't own, and plan to share them with your clan.

"A Christmas Story," "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" can all be found in Contra Costa County Library's catalog. Demand for these is likely to be high, so you might want to consider other classics. My family growing up loved Marx Brothers movies, anything by Mel Brooks, and more recently have enjoyed old episodes of Mr. Bean. (OK, we have a twisted sense of humor!)

We used to watch Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol together every year, and sing along with all of the crazy lyrics. (When stealing Mr. Magoo's belongings in the segment about his future, local poachers claim "We're re-pre-hensible, we'll steal your pens, and pen-cibiles.")

Alas, this timeless classic is not available through Contra Costa County. It can be requested using the LINK+ system, a separate catalog found on the library's website.

LINK+ is a consortium of over 50 libraries in California and Nevada that share items with one another. The world of books, video and music just got that much bigger.

Cooking: Cookbooks are popular at this time of year. The library owns thousands of them, several dedicated to Christmas cooking in particular, and within that a subset of books just about Christmas cookies.

One family who uses the Brentwood Library requests virtually all of these books every year for their traditional cookie-making and baking marathon. They use LINK+ to request cookbooks not owned by Contra Costa County as well, and could probably publish their own cookbook at this point with their level of expertise. They have even taken to bringing in a plateful of their culinary creations for staff, expressing their appreciation for our role in making their holidays happen.

Decorating: Not sure how to make that holiday wreath you've always considered trying? Looking to create the perfect centerpiece for your holiday dinner? Search the catalog with the terms "Christmas decorations" and pull up 190 titles all about making the holidays festive. One title that caught my eye: The Farm Chicks' Christmas."

Stocking Stuffers: Most libraries have an ongoing book sale, made up of books donated by people in their communities. Fill the stocking of a loved one for less than a dollar with a once-read James Patterson or Nora Roberts paperback. Books for adults, teens and kids are available for a pittance. It's the one thing on this list that's not free, but definitely worth the price!

Liz Fuller is a community library manager at the Brentwood library. Reach her at 925-516-5294.

or at lfuller@ccclib.org.