"Choices for the 21st Century," a free, four-part discussion series that gives participants a chance to wrestle with broad decisions that affect the nation's future in the world, will begin later this month at five Utah libraries.

The libraries are located in Moab, Huntsville, Mount Pleasant, St. George and Park City.The series is sponsored by the Utah Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the public library system. Discussions are non-partisan, non-advocacy gatherings led by qualified scholars and are designed to encourage public debate on important issues.

In an age of technology, people have become accustomed to getting their news fast and to the point. But they often don't receive background and other information that would help them better understand significant news events, said Cindy Gubler, a Humanities Council representative.

"Most people don't give much thought to what's beyond the headlines or the 30-second bite. For example, we've all heard about the problems in the Middle East and recognize the name Saddam Hussein, but do we really know what's happening there? Do we really understand how an issue like this affects us and how we affect it?" Gubler asked.

This is the fourth year that the Humanities Council has sponsored Choices. Those interested in attending the discussions or in receiving additional information should contact Jean Cheney, project coordinator, at the council, 359-9670.

Discussion topics include "The End of the Cold War: Challenges of a New Era and Considering Your Future," "China on the World Stage," "Shifting Sands: Balancing U.S. Interests in the Middle East," "Charting Our Future: Balancing Priorities," "Global Environmental Problems" and "U.S. Immigration Policy in an Unsettled World."

Libraries, dates and times and discussion leaders:

- Grand County Library, Moab, 7 p.m. Thursdays beginning March 26, Steve Stevenson, formerly of Pueblo Community College.

- Ogden Valley Branch Library, Huntsville, Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning April 14, 7 p.m., Alan Coombs, University of Utah history professor.

- Mount Pleasant Library, Sanpete County, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays beginning March 31, Rod Theobald, English teacher at Wasatch Academy.

- Washington County Library, St. George, 7 p.m. Wednesdays beginning April 8, Wayne Shamo, literacy specialist.

- Park City Library, 7 p.m. Wed-nesdays beginning April 1, Susan Cottler, history professor at Westminster College.