About MI OWL!


The development of Medical Interprofessional Open source Web-based Library (MI OWL) occurred when a group of physicians in the rural, remote community of Marathon, in Northwestern Ontario, became a Family Health Team in 2005. Becoming an interprofessional team was an impetus to create a variety of new programs for our patient population. We were challenged in this endeavor by the lack of available information on such clinical innovations and the inability to easily share information with other clinical teams. With an Innovations grant from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care one of the Marathon Family Health Team physicians, Eliseo Orrantia, embarked on creating MI OWL with the help of Joseph Newing (IT) and Margaret Cousins (epidemiologist). We employed the services of Alan Wynn, of FriendlyDev as the primary programmer.


MI OWL is rooted in several principles which include being: a free service, advertisement free, open source and widely accessible. MI OWL is a noncommercial site. Its creators do not wish to make any financial profit from its use, nor have others do so. Being open source allows for the program to be improved upon by other interested parties. It can also be adapted, with minor modifications, to provide a similar service in other countries. Beyond the health care application, the basic programming of MI OWL could be used to make a library of libraries for any myriad of topics. The primary intent of MI OWL is to support health care providers in their care provision within our Canadian health care system. As our system is publically funded, we believe that the body of knowledge that it creates should be freely accessible to all. Improved sharing among health care providers can enhance the system’s function and evolution. As well, transparency with the public makes us more directly accountable.


MI OWL has been created to provide Canadian primary care clinics and small community hospitals with a tool to create their own web-based document libraries. These libraries allow the organizing, searching and sharing of the information that health care facilities rely on to provide patient care. Such information can be policies, program descriptions, forms, medical directives and patient resources for example. Individual libraries can be organized as desired depending on need and preference.

A fundamental goal of MI OWL is to create access to information. This is achieved by allowing the libraries to be perused and searched by all those interested. This facilitates us to share and build on what health organizations have already created. It saves time and effort as well as creating a greater collaborative culture in health care.

Browsing libraries

You can look through individual libraries by clicking on “OWLs” on the top right of MI OWL pages. This will bring you to the OWL Choice page. From there you can select the desired library from the drop down list by clicking on “choose”, in the lower right of that screen. You will be taken to the particular library’s OWL Details page. Clicking “list” under the heading of “categories”, on the left hand side of that page, will bring up the table of contents for that particular OWL. Clicking on a particular category within that list will bring up all the document files stored under that category. More information on a particular file can then be discovered by clicking on the tag icon to the right of the file name. Another way to look through the files in a particular OWL is to click on “browse” under the “uploads” heading on the left side of an OWL’s Details page. This will bring up a list of all the files within that OWL. More information on a particular file can be discovered by clicking on its tag icon to the right of the file name. Files can be downloaded, or printed by clicking on the appropriate icon to the right of the file name.

Site Search

Content within the MI OWL site and all its libraries can be searched by clicking on “site search” at the top left of the MI OWL’s pages. This will bring up the general “Search form” page where you will be prompted to enter 3 different search limits and then the topic to be searched. Clicking on “search” on the lower right of the Search Form page will then run the inquiry.

Live search

The following are the two ways to use a search function when within a particular library.

Clicking on “list” under the “Categories” heading on the left side of the page within a particular OWL will take one to the “Owl Categories” page that lists all the file categories for that particular OWL. Clicking on a particular category from that list takes you to the “File Browser” page which lists all the files under the chosen category. Above the list of files is a box with the words “Live Search”. Typing words in this box will search the files within the category and select those that have the key words in their file name, or description.

The other way to search within a particular library is to click on “browse” beneath the heading “Uploads” on the left side of the page within an OWL. This takes one to the “OWL Uploads” page where there is a listing of all the files within that particular library. Above the list of files is a box with the words “Live Search”. Typing key words in this box will search all files and select those that have the key words in their file name, or description.


To create a new OWL it is necessary to register with the MI OWL site. Do so by clicking on “register” at the top right of the MI OWL pages. This will take you to the Registration Page. There you will be asked to submit information including your name, email and whether you want to join an existing OWL, or create a new one. You will then receive an email titled MI OWL/Confirm your Account. By following the instructions you will be able to go to the MI OWL User Account Authorize page. There you will enter the Authorization Code sent to you in the email you received. By then clicking on “Authorize Account” on the lower right hand of the page you will have activated your account. You will then receive another email titled MI OWL/Welcome verifying that your account has been activated.

Create New OWL

Once you have an activated account you can go back to the MI OWL site and click on “log in”. This will bring you to a page where you can have a choice of “Choose existing OWL”, or “Register New OWL”. Filling the information required under “Register New OWL” will create an “Unverified OWL”. You will receive an email with a confirmation code that allows you to confirm and activate your new OWL once you return and log in to the MI OWL site.

Managing Categories

Having created a new OWL you will find that it is already auto-populated with a large number of categories which are specific to either a hospital or primary care clinic. You can modify this table of contents, or get rid of it completely and develop one that will meet your specific needs.

By clicking “organize” under the “categories” heading you can change whether a category is a primary, secondary or tertiary one. If it is not a primary category you can also establish which category is its parent.

Clicking on “create” under the “categories” heading allows for a new category to be made. If the new category is not to be a primary category it can then be assigned to be a subcategory of another existing category.


The list of licenses that are automatically populated for a new OWL can be reviewed by clicking “list” under “licenses”. These are the choices of license one has to choose from when uploading a new file. New licenses can be added to this list by clicking on “create”. We encourage users to use permissive licenses as a fundamental goal of this site is sharing.


Files can be uploaded to populate the various categories by using the “upload” function under “uploads”. Files must be in the txt, rtf, pdf, doc or docx format. It is important to put in a descriptive file name. Care should be taken in filling the “description” box with a summary of what the file contains. Key words should be used in this description. The “site search” and “live search” functions of the MI OWL site search through the file name and the file description information to find the required files.

Deleted files can be recovered from the “recycle bin” for up to 30 days.

Accessing source code

MI OWL is an open source tool as its source code is readily available. MI OWL is programmed using the programming language PHP and the data base is constructed with MySQL. It is built using Codeigniter to construct a framework of models, views and controllers. If you are interested in looking at, or downloading the source code please go to https://github.com/MIOWL/miowl.org

Improving MI OWL

We welcome your suggestions on how MI OWL might be improved. Please contact us at with your ideas. If you are interested in adding to, or changing the functionality of MI OWL yourself, please take a look at the MI OWL source code at https://github.com/MIOWL/miowl.org to see examples of the formatting we would like followed. We will consider integrating your programming into MI OWL after making sure it conforms to our general Codeigniter framework, testing its function and determining if it improves the site. Please contact us at with your programming proposal.


The MI OWL site is run on a Dedicated Power Custom server with a Dural-Core Xeon 2.53GHz processor and 2 X 500GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM. We monitor the site speed and make sure it is capable of managing the volume of use.

Disclaimer and Privacy Policy

The operators of this site specifically disclaim all responsibility for any liability, risk, personal or otherwise which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the material on this site.

MI OWL makes no representations or warranties in relation to the information on this website. MI OWL does not warrant that the medical information on this website will be constantly available, or available at all. It also does not warrant that the medical information on this website is complete, true, accurate, up-to-date, or non-misleading.

If you use, or browse through our website we do collect some basic data about your visit. This information is kept and used in aggregate for analysis, but is not personal to you and cannot be used to identify you. We use this aggregate data to determine traffic patterns, visits, and other statistics we then use to help us make MI OWL more useful.

MI OWL does not share, sell, or lease personal information about you to any third parties for their marketing use. Any personal and contact information collected is only used in the function of MI OWL and its evolution.

By using this site, you agree to the terms and conditions of our Website Disclaimer and Privacy Policy and you assume full responsibility for use of any information within MI OWL. You also agree that MI OWL is not responsible or liable for any claim, loss or damage resulting from the use of this site by you, or any user. We reserve the right to modify, including add, or remove contents of this Website Disclaimer and Privacy Policy at any time. We reserve the right to remove contents from MI OWL at any time. Please periodically review our Website Disclaimer and Privacy Policy for any changes.